I didn’t realize it until my wife mentioned it, but Wednesday night marked the 12th year of the annual Fourth of July Bike Parade.
My wife and Lana, who lives across the street, came up with the idea for the bike parade when our now 15-year-old daughter, Emma, was 4. Lana and husband Bill’s now 16-year-old daughter, Katie, was 5.
The parade, which actually never takes place on July Fourth, gives our neighborhood kids a chance to decorate their bicycles, tricycles, scooters and anything else they want. They ride up our street three blocks to the cul-de-sac and then back to the parkway in front of our house. Once the parade is over, the kids and adults gather for lemonade in the parkway.
While all of that is going on, I and a few folks in the know retreat to my backyard for an ice cold beer or two.
It’s your basic Norman Rockwell moment.
In the first year of the bike parade, Emma rode her bike with training wheels while Katie, who had just ditched her training wheels, proudly made it through the parade on two wheels. As a precaution, Bill and I walked behind our daughters to make sure they made it through the ride unscathed.
The next year, Emma and I spent the weeks leading up to the parade working on her two-wheel skills. In our house there is a framed copy of a column I wrote about spending Father’s Day that year teaching Emma how to ride her bike.
That year, Bill and I still walked behind Emma and Katie to make sure they made it through the parade without hurting themselves.
As the years passed, Bill and I stopped walking with Emma and Katie. As more years passed, Emma and Katie grew too old to ride their bikes with “the little kids.”
But the annual bike parade went on just the same.
I’m not exactly a brooding intellectual, so I don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on things. But I have to admit that Wednesday night, I spent some time thinking about those past bike parades.
I remember how excited Emma, Katie and their friends used to get before the parade began. I remember when Dick Ferguson used to be parade grand marshal. Dick was a heck of a guy and a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor who sadly is no longer with us.
But after he passed, the bike parade went on just the same.
I thought about Dick on Wednesday night, and I also thought about all of the other folks who were a part of the parade who are no longer with us. This year, three people from our street were absent from the parade for the first time. All three of them have died in the past two months.
Yet, the bike parade went on just the same.
As I watched all the kids on their decorated bikes line up Wednesday for the start of the parade, I realized that I don’t know most of them. But that’s OK. The parade, in a way, represents a sort of passing of the torch.
Those parents who lined up behind their kids to walk the parade, as Bill and I once did, one day will pass that responsibility on to a new set of parents who, hopefully, will pass it on to yet another new set of parents.
This year, my wife and I are teaching Emma how to drive a car. Soon, she will join Katie, who is already driving on her own. Wednesday night, when the parade was over and everyone had gone home, Emma, Katie and Kelsey drove off to shoot fireworks at a friend’s house.
After they left, my wife and I sat in our backyard for a while and then went inside to wait up until Emma got home.
I don’t know what the next year will bring, but I’m almost certain that no matter what happens, the 13th annual Fourth of July Bike Parade will go on just the same.
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