rebels without a tire swing

The last couple weeks we here in HQX have been blessed with thrillingly sunny late autumn days. Today, even though my husband and I are both suffering from a head cold, we simply can’t stay off the bikes. Our destination: the bakery (previously blogged by a local) new to downtown Aberdeen.

Our children seem to fare better, behavior-wise, when we go off on road trips and even more: bike trips. They are genial, their appetite is good, and their conversation entertaining. Ralph and I can usually get more uninterrupted conversation time, which keeps us from loathing one another too much. Today I tell him my novel synopsis; he tells me he plans a celebration for the family on Tuesday (the day, God willing, he gets his new guitar). We talk about our friends, our future plans. From the bakery to the grocery store for cat food and a few dinner items. Sophie pushes the cart, Nels rides underneath.

Have I mentioned how much I love, love, love biking for the opportunity to meet new people? As we leave the store we see a man jaywalking across the main thoroughfare (which is actually, regrettably, a highway) sporting a large beard, wearing an open coat, no shirt, huge gold chains, and talking to two big friendly-looking dogs connected not to him but to one another via fifteen feet of some kind of industrial cable tied around their necks. The dogs join us; the kids and I pet them. The man is cursing (gently) at them, trying to untangle their bi-leash. He compliments the bike. He looks unclean and cheerful, his chest beneath his coat smooth and muscled but also tragically scarred. The dogs look happy. We part ways for the now.

A few minutes later at Finch Park and the kids are gamboling on the playground while Ralph and I talk. As we sit huddled on the picnic table two teenagers enter the grounds, alike as two peas in a pod with hair in their faces, half-cocked hats, screenprinted hoodies, and jeans that hug low and tight on the hips and loose on the legs. Ralph points out he sees kids like this at the parks often, carrying themselves with a self-conscious stoop to their walk and remote body language; but who do, in fact, play on the playground equipment. “It’s a commentary on childhood, and how we don’t provide for kids this age,” he says (or something like that, it sounded smart to me). Sure enough, the two boys effortlessly climb up to the top of the rope-coned merry-go-round and swing on it a bit, clearly wanting velocity. I heckle Ralph to go offer a push and, given his refusal, finally do it myself. The boys bray laughter like it’s a joke but they concede happily. I push as much as I can, my daughter joining and clambering up along with the little pirates.

I return back to Ralph and as we continue our conversation I observe the youths have now freed themselves up to play on the large swings, the teeter-totter, goofing off. They are as joyful and full of mischief as the younger kids, and no one begrudges them their company. I often think of teenagers and young adults and how little some people trust or support them, especially if they have a cigarette in or bad language coming out of their mouths.

It’s nice to just watch them play.

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