You are on a mission: today the stabilisers are off your daughter’s bike for the first time, and you are going to the park. She is excited; impatient to get there, and you have to insist on hopping her up in scarf, gloves, and coat. It is late autumn, and the trees in the park are wearing their seasonal colours. The Maples, Beeches, and Cherry trees are spectacular: firework-like bursts and explosions of flaming reds and yellows against the more muted backdrop of the evergreens. It has rained periodically over the past few days, and the fallen leaves are sticking fast to the paths and pavements. Some of them are already turning brown and starting to break down, aided by the pressure of human feet. It is chilly enough for you to see your breath in the damp afternoon air, but the sky is only lightly clouded, not threatening serious rain. The air is fresh in your nostrils, carrying with it the earthy scent of boggy ground and decay.
Once you are on a level stretch of path you commence: with one hand on her back and the other holding her left arm you gently propel her along. At first she is wobbly, a little unsure of her ability to balance without the security of the extra wheels, and you have to catch her often. But it’s not long before your hand is only there for reassurance, and she is pedalling along. When the time comes to give her a push, and set her on her way, you experience mixed emotions: both happy and sad to see another milestone passed on the road towards independence. You are also nervous that she might fall, and proud to see her doing so well. She has the hang of it in no time, and squeals with exhilaration, Look, I’m doing it! I can do it! Of course, she falls every so often, one time scraping her shin on the pedal, but without hesitation she determinedly gets back on the bike and waits for you to push her again. After half an hour or so, pedalling up and down the park with you running alongside, her legs are getting tired and she decides it is time for her reward: hot chocolate in a nearby café. She requests that it is decorated with a heart on the frothy top, rather than the usual swirly pattern. When it comes, it is done perfectly. You sit at the window, chatting contentedly and watching people pass by on their way home from work as you sip.
Then it is time for you to go home as well. On the way back, the ornamental Cherry trees in the garden on the corner of your street are alight with gold and red. Realising that you hadn’t talked about the autumn landscape in all the bike-riding excitement, you remark on how amazing they look.
Yes, she replies without a pause, the colour of life.