What Poppy Told Me

The afternoon sun shines through our windows, bright and promising. The winter has been gray. I help 5-year-old Leo and 3-year-old Poppy navigate their bikes through the breezeway, brushing against the gritty brick all the way to the front of the house where the sidewalk runs wide along James Street.

Back and forth they ride, from the lamp post in the west to the metal gate in the east, a span of two or three row homes. “Here, Dad?” Leo calls out. “I can go this far?” There is the whole wide world, 26,000 miles around, yet they are completely happy to exist in that 90 feet. Pedaling and turning.

I sit on the front steps and read a book. Leo gets cold, parks his bike against the front porch, and goes inside, but not Poppy. She keeps going back and forth, back and forth, humming to herself, her cheeks bright pink from the February air, her hands red.

“Aren’t you cold?” I keep asking. I’m cold. “No,” she calls out, making another lap.

Eventually, she pulls to a stop in front of the steps. “I’m finished,” she says, and I carry their bikes to the back porch. She trails behind me.

“It’s a good day,” she says with a smile, her face glowing and I kiss her icy nose and she giggles and I wonder if this will be one of the memories that sticks, the day she rode bike through a February day, or if it will fade into her past the way most childhood days do.

“It IS a good day,” I reply. How little it takes to please a child. How eager they can be to find happiness in their narrow world.

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