As I was driving to church this morning, there was a lane closed in the road coming towards me for a bicycle race, or so the signs said at any rate. At first, there were no bikes in sight, but after a bit I saw some school age children peddling up the mild grade on Boudreau for all they were worth. Some of them had better bikes than others, and some of them were clearly more competitive or better equipped; one little girl not only had the drop down racing handlebars that were standard issue on the ten-speeds of my youth, but also had the additional posts facing upwards for further positioning options. One young lad had a number written on his arm in black marker, which made me wonder if I had wandered into a mini-triathlon of some sort, an "Ironkid", if you will. As I approached the Fountain Park Pool and saw more kids, including some running ones, I felt sure this was the case.
As I watched them running and biking, I had to wonder what would push a kid into that kind of competition. I mean, I swam competitively as a child, and largely enjoyed it, even if I wasn't too serious about it. But I enjoyed the meets and even training, as a lot of my friends were there. But triathlons are heavy duty, and I had a hard time picturing a 7th grader watching grown men and women pushing themselves beyond the limits of human endurance and collapsing in tears at the side of the road and then saying, "Hey, I want to try that!"
I was still stuck in my reverie when a girl of perhaps ten came peddling along. There was nothing extraordinary about her bike or equipment... except for the pinwheel she had jammed into her handlebars.
She had a big smile on her face as she peddled her way up the hill, and she singlehandedly made my morning. Fenya is close to that age, and I am sure that she would have second thoughts about putting something that 'childish' in view of her classmates, but this girl clearly didn't care. She had her pinwheel, and she was happy, and it was spinning so hard I could see the stick bending in time to the whirring and clacking.
Back in high school or junior high math class, I once became entranced with a wooden ruler I had perched on top of my pencil through the binder-ring hole in its centre, and was slowly turning it, trying to keep it as level as possible. The teacher came up from behind me, grabbed the ruler and put it firmly on my desk. That's fine, I was clearly day-dreaming, but I thought her comment, "small minds are amused by small things" was a bit out of line, and I still do.
There were a number of supportive adults spectating and volunteering along the route, clapping and cheering on these young triathletes, and I hope some of them enjoyed seeing that girl and her pinwheel as much as I did. I think if more of us allowed ourselves to appreciate or be amused by small things, whether they are miniature tri-athletes or their pinwheels, we might be better off.