Sometime between setting out the rolls to rise and making the deviled eggs, Beth got out for a quick ride. I stayed home and puttered around my bike shop, picking the little jobs that would let me get my fingers a little dirty without having to make the commitment to organize and clean up the shop the way I really needed to. I figured I had all day to ride.
Our nephew Jason came over early, and brought his bike stuff. He’s been out here a little more than a year—which by no coincidence is about the same amount of time he’s been riding—and he’s trying to figure out what to do with his history degree. He’s working in an outdoors-oriented program for at-risk kids, who seem to have embraced as their main exercise running away every week or so. Beth got back, and Ray came over. He’d gone to see the new Muppets movie with his daughter, Izzy, then dropped her off so she could spend the rest of her day with her mom. First year he had to do something like that. He brought his bike stuff, too. We agreed we had all day to ride, and hung out and talked about rides we’d done and the ride we might do, and we inhaled all the aromas of the Thanksgiving meal and ate the two extra deviled eggs that didn’t fit in either refrigerator.
When it was time to eat we all sat down at the long, steel bench table in our dining room, Beth and Natalie and me, and Jason, and Ray. Before we really started into eating, we toasted the day and each other, but after that we mostly kept our thanks to ourselves. I don’t know why. It just seemed better somehow, to not get too heavy. We told a lot of stories, and we laughed a lot instead. The meal didn’t feel solemn, but it felt important. When we were done and it was time for a nap, Ray and Jason and I went out and did a hilly ride. It was a good one, talking pace and with no specific direction in mind, and we were each happy to find out that, even with the weather and all the colds going around and with whatever else each of us was dealing with, our fitness was better than we’d anticipated. We got onto a climb Ray and I couldn’t remember ever doing together before, and that led us into a long rehash of the great rides we’d shared through the years. The profile of the mountains off on the horizon were starting to make the bottom of the sun jagged, like a lower jaw taking bites out of a cookie, and in the cooling, saturated orange dusk we rode a little harder both to stay warm and to get home before dark. Just like at dinner, nobody made a big deal out of being thankful, but the sense of it was as much around us and as deep as the light of the sunset — and maybe that’s why we didn’t need to mention it, because we could so much feel it. We beat nightfall home by maybe twenty pedal strokes. It was a great end to Thanksgiving.
The next day, Beth went out for a long ride early, and I stayed home and went hard at my bike shop until I finally had no more small jobs left and had no choice but to clean it. Natalie and I went out and tackled some of the final work on the cyclocross course that the entire cycling community had been pitching in for about a month to set up in our yard; starting the next day, we were having friends over for a weekend of unofficial racing. The kid strung course tape and spray-painted directional arrows on the drive. We had to burn some brush. And I had to get a bike together. When I looked at the frame I remembered I’d never had it faced and chased. I called down to South Mountain Cycles, and Graham told me he could squeeze the job in right away if I could get down there. I took the frame in and stood there while Graham got the tools out and did the prep work.
I was starting to get worried that I wouldn’t have time to do the build. Getting the bike together in time to race was starting to feel like a hassle. I rushed home and as I walked through the kitchen I leaned the frame against the island there and kept going because I had so much to do, and Natalie, sitting at the table eating a snack, said something to me I barely heard and did not comprehend. I’d gotten enough of her tone to be pretty sure it hadn’t been anything that important she’d wanted to tell me, so I’d kept walking. When I came back into the kitchen on my way out to the bike shop, she said just one word: “Dad.” There was some urgency to the word that made me stop.
I said, “What? What do you want?”
She said, “I told you that your new frame is pretty.”
I picked it up and looked at it. I turned it this way and that way, catching the light, and I said, “Yeah, it really is, isn’t it?”
Natalie said, “You’re lucky.”
I looked at her.
She said, “But now you have to get it together.”
“Yeah,” I said. I set the frame back down and walked over to the kitchen table and sat, and Natalie and I looked out the window and talked about nothing, about everything, about how much fun tomorrow was going to be, and somewhere in there I was thinking I had to stop letting a calendar tell me how to feel.
Originally published in The Selection, November 29, 2011