The other day I left the office later than I liked, but still earlier than usual. I had a date with an almost-four-year-old to take her out on her new bike before dinner. I knew she was excited to get on her wheels for the first time, and once during the workday I remembered that I needed to get home early, that she’d be waiting. And she was, beaming when she got her hand-me-down helmet on, explaining to me all the details of her purple bike with streamers and stickers and a basket to hold her stuffed animal friends.
Our ride didn’t last long. After pedaling for a few minutes, she said she’d had enough and jumped off and ran around the plaza. But during those few minutes she was all concentration, getting a hang of the foot, hand, and body work necessary to move the bike forward. Her joy rang out through her laughter when she finally got it. And then, perhaps for the first time, I appreciated what my father had done for me when I was a kid. I remember him announcing at the dinner table on long summer nights, “Time to shag balls,” which meant, get the bats and balls and gloves and let’s go play ball. For years during my childhood he’d pitch to my brothers and me and all the neighborhood kids on the hard-packed local school ball field. Back then I assumed that’s the way it was, that was what he did on summer nights when dinner was finished and we still had two hours of daylight left. Never once did I question that no one else’s father ever pitched to us, or that he might want to be doing something else. It was baseball, it was for me, and, well, wasn’t that the way things were?
As I stood there watching my two daughters run around after their ride, thinking of my race home to be there in time, I remembered the journey we’re all on: giving to those we love because that’s what we do, even if they have to reach 50 before they understand. Isn’t that the ways things are?
Larry Habegger, executive editor of Travelers’ Tales, has been writing about travel since 1980. He has visited almost fifty countries and six of the seven continents, traveling from the frozen Arctic to equatorial rain forest, the high Himalayas to the Dead Sea. In the early 1980s he co-authored mystery serials for the San Francisco Examiner with James O’Reilly, and since 1985 their syndicated newspaper column, “World Travel Watch,” has appeared in newspapers in five countries, and can also be found on WorldTravelWatch.com and on TravelersTales.com. As series editors of Travelers’ Tales, they have worked on some eighty titles, winning many awards for excellence. Habegger regularly teaches the craft of travel writing at workshops and writers conferences, and he lives with his family in San Francisco. Click here to learn more about Larry Habegger.