Ruby, my six-year-old, reminded me of something today.
“Daddy”, she said, “You promised we could see if my legs are long enough.”
And of course I had. The rule has always been, when you can get both your feet securely on the rear pegs, you can ride on the back of my motorcycle.
This happened a lot earlier for her big sister; I had a different bike then, a Kawasaki Vulcan, which is a big harley-looking cruiser. The rear pegs were a lot higher. For Ruby, it’s been a long wait.
Today, we got around to it; I put her on the back of my big green Triumph and sure enough, both feet on the pegs.
Her sister’s helmet is almost too small for her already; big heads, these kids have, to house enormous brains. But the helmet fit.
“Ok Ruby, let’s go”, I said.
She put on her boots, and a sweat shirt, and I got into some jeans. I started the bike up, and loaded my little girl on the back, and off we went.
When you’re carrying a passenger on the back of your bike, you can tell how they’re feeling, it’s all communicated silently with touch. You know if they’re tense, if they’re happy, if they’re scared. When I’ve taken kids out on the back, I can feel all the fear and elation and joy, all the excitement.
They cling tight at first, too tight, so tight it’s hard to ride. But after a bit, when they start to understand they’re not going to fall off, they relax.
Ruby and I rode about a quarter mile, past gramma’s house, and I pulled over; asked her, shouted so she could hear me through two helmets, how she was feeling.
“Are you scared?” I asked.
“But is it fun?”
“Do you want to keep going?
“Yeah! Go faster!”
I love this little girl. She already understands she can be scared and having a good time, both at the same time.
We rode around residential streets for a bit; my town has a lot of curving, meandering streets, smalls hills and weird little areas. We rode a couple miles at what felt like a snail’s pace (though fast enough to get me a ticket, I’m sure, if the cops had been out). Finally I pulled over and asked her if she was still ok, and she was. I showed her she could hang on to my belt instead of a bear-hug, and we went off on bigger and better roads.
I taught her the motorcycle wave; hands down low, a peace sign or a couple fingers. Ultimate cool-guy waves, no flailing, and she waved to other bikes passing.
We rode into town, and motored slowly up our main drag. She waved to passing bikers and pointed out each bike she saw. It was hard to turn around at the end of town, before I got up into the twisties, but I wasn’t going to take that road with a six-year-old riding on the back.
We doubled back, waved to a beautiful red Norton on the way out of town, and then I opened the throttle and showed Ruby how a big 1200cc bike can move when you let it.
I don’t think I got it over 75; the speed limit on this road is 40. And I pulled it down as soon as we topped the hill. But I could feel Ruby’s thrill as we went from zero to very fast and back down in a few heartbeats.
We were home a few minutes later, and I helped Ruby off the back to make sure she didn’t burn herself on the hot pipes; I helped her off with her helmet. Her face was red and flushed, and she was wearing a maniac grin.
Hours later, at dinner, Ruby could still not stop talking about the ride. She wants to go again, she wants a longer ride. She wants a leather jacket like daddy has. She pointed out every bike we saw all afternoon.
She’s a biker girl already. I was going to say biker chick, but that’s not what this girl is; she’s going to want her own bike, and she’s going to be able to ride it. That’s how Ruby is. Ruby isn’t afraid, Ruby knows what she wants and how to get it. This is the one I trust with a chef’s knife, and the one who knows which knife is the chef’s knife. She’s a girly-girl, yes. But she’s also a budding gothlet, who wants skulls and flames on things.
Days like this, you remember why having kids seemed like a good idea.