We haven’t spent a weekend under our own roof since Dec 14-16. Sunday we awoke to what we hope is a long stretch in our own home. After we played inside for a little while, Benjamin and I headed outside to find new worlds to conquer. Well, we at least were going to take a kite and his big wheel* to the nearby public school’s track.
Then I proceeded to break Benjamin’s kite two minutes into its maiden voyage. But, really, this is more about Ben and his big wheel. (click pic to enlarge)
A month or two ago, I figured the sidewalk’s linear layout must be restricting Benjamin’s freedom, but I wasn’t about to let him ride in the road. I’m anal that way. So, we continued beyond the end of our street and carefully crossed a four-lane to the middle school’s parking lot. On a normal school day, that road is loaded with cars trying to beat the next pre-pubescent kid to the spot where two crossing guards wait to wield their unquestionable power.
That day, it was pretty much just Benjamin and me.
About 2.7 seconds after we reached the parking lot, I spotted the regulation football field, encircled by a regulation track. (So it was an oval. It can still encircle.) It was a quarter-mile (or roughly 402 meters) of rubberized asphalt running track, each of its four lanes the perfect size for a boy and his big wheel.
And nobody was on it.
“Hey, Benjamin, you want to ride on a race track?” I asked.
“Do you want to ride on a race track?”
I pointed. “Right over there.”
His little feet pumped the pedals, filling the air with the sound of hard plastic “tires” on cement.
The track completely muffled his movements. I thought of the phrase “silent running,” which of course made me think of the movie with that name. Without anyone to catch the reference, I kept it to myself, and added yet another title to the list of movies I hope to show Benjamin one day.
At one point, he pedaled so fast I couldn’t keep up without jogging. When he sprinted nearly 100 yards, I gave up trying to keep pace. I was nearly 10 times his age, for Pete’s sake. Finally, he slowed and I caught up.
“Daddy, my legs are tired,” he said.
I managed to keep from leaning over in exhaustion. I didn’t want him to think I was out of shape. “Mine, too, buddy.”
Three full laps he rode that thing, with one side trip to see the long jump pit and let fire ants get in his sandals. Miraculously, he ended up with only two stings. Add that distance to our roundtrip travel, and I’d say he rode his big wheel at least a mile that day.
Not a bad workout for a four-year-old.
This past Sunday (see, I knew we’d end up back here), with the temperature hovering around 72 degrees, I figured we were due another trip. The wind was blowing hard, and Benjamin had never flown a kite. On a shopping jaunt to Kohl’s in the summer, Shannon had picked up a cheap one emblazoned with the image of every boy’s hero — Superman. I put the kite together and threw it and Benjamin’s big wheel into the minivan (because, as much as I would have liked walking down to the school, we didn’t have much time if we were going to make it to the last matinee showing of The Water Horse). Unlike our first, impromptu trip to the track, I grabbed my cameras (video and still).
The kite crashed twice, and it was all over. A piece broke off, making the stretcher bar (my term) useless. Instead of Superman, it looked like Gonzo from “The Muppet Show,” flapping aimlessly to find the next chicken of his affection. It got high enough to ding one of the goalposts, but of course I didn’t capture that on video.
Instead, here’s what I got of Ben and the kite. It’s fun to watch that little guy pedal like a madman at the end. Notice his wandering eye, too, when a lady walks by. Give it a moment to load after pushing play (which you might have to click twice in Internet Explorer).
We had so much fun exploring the school’s grounds, we never made it to the movie.
* No, it isn’t truly a Big Wheel, but the name has become generically applicable, like Scotch tape or Sheetrock. The original Big Wheel was made available again in 2003.