Remembering the “Wheeeeee!!!!!” -for Hannah

Feeling tired and cynical tonight, my mood lightened at this memory.

My son and I are blessed to live on a street where children still play outdoors until it’s dark and the neighbors are like family- always there for each other during times of celebration, ordinary times, and times of need.

A couple of years ago, I re-entered the world of cycling and fell in love with my bike all over again. All avid cyclists, regardless of ability, know that what is a hobby can quickly become an obsession as we focus on increasing endurance, keeping our cadence up, finding the right form, surpassing our prior PB (personal best), and so forth.

On a sunny afternoon, I headed out the door with my bike, focused solely on adding twenty miles to the weekly total. One of my youngest neighbors, Hannah, was outside playing and quickly asked, “Miss Ashleigh, can we go for a bike ride?” Seeing that beautiful, eager, eight-year-old face, all thoughts of the 20 mile ride vanished, and I replied, “Sure- go ask your dad.” It took only about one minute for her reappear with her little pink bike fully equipped with handlebar streamers and a white plastic basket in front sporting a daisy.

We have several children in the neighborhood- Hannah is my favorite. A friendly and unselfish soul with a big heart, she is the kind of person who makes others feel good just by being in her company. About a year ago, her older cousin tragically lost her mother to cancer and began to take her anger out on Hannah; when a concerned family member asked Hannah about her cousin’s mistreatment of her, the sweet child replied, “It’s ok, I don’t take it personal. Some people have so much sadness it comes out as meanness, and she has a lot to be sad about.” Boy, I wish we could all be as understanding as that little girl.

So off we went on our bikes and I couldn’t stop smiling at her continuous monologue: “This is so much fun! Can we ride to my school? Look at me- I can go fast! Are you having fun, Miss Ashleigh? Let’s go faster! Can we stop at the playground? My friend lives down this street. I never rode this far before!” And finally, as we gathered speed along a longer stretch of road, came the “WHEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!”

That one exclamation of pure joy from an eight year old really hit home, and I remembered what I liked about cycling in the first place. Because of Hannah, every now and again when I’m out on my bike, I take my mind off performance, cadence, speed, endurance, and power for a moment to remember the “wheeeeee!” Thanks Hannah-you always make me smile!   

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