Training Wheels

While driving to Madeline’s preschool today, I heard something a little unexpected.  It was Madeline giggling to herself in the back of the van.  I looked into my rearview mirror to see her bright blue eyes staring back at me with her famous crinkled nose and smile.  I asked her what was so funny.  She replied, “I was just thinking about how Emilie was always afraid to take her training wheels off her bike!”  Then she started to giggle some more.  I laughed as well as the memory came back to me.

As last summer was coming to an end, Madeline had decided she wanted to end it with a bang!  SHE was ready to take her training wheels off.  I was a little surprised Madeline had even thought of this all on her own, since her big sister Emilie still hadn’t taken her training wheels off yet.  Madeline was determined to convince us that she was ready.  We stalled for about a week, but finally caved in.  Robbie took them off.

I walked to the road with Madeline and helped her onto the two-wheeler.  I yelled, “Go!” and we started down the road.  I held on to the back of her seat, while Emilie and Samantha cheered Madeline on.  Madeline was balancing well, but didn’t quite understand that she needed to keep peddling in order not to fall.  I was impressed with her confidence though.  Madeline, our little dare devil.

Emilie had always been the safe one in our family.  She never liked to be too adventurous.  She always proceeded with caution.  But seeing Madeline take her training wheels off had made an impact on her.  I could see it in the way she watched her sister.  I could tell by the intensity in her eyes.  She was considering the risks.  Madeline would say to her, “You should try it Em. I did it!”  Emilie would decline.  Days went by and I continued working with Madeline every evening.  She loved riding, but still wouldn’t peddle fast enough for me to let go for very long.  It didn’t seem to bother Madeline much though.  She was proud to have mommy running beside her, never even noticing the sweat dripping from my face.  I was thankful on the nights Robbie had off and could take a turn getting a workout.

One night after our bike ride training was over, we all headed back into the house for dinner.  Emilie stayed behind.  She looked a little nervous and I asked her if she was okay.  She said, “Mom, I think I want to try and ride Madeline’s bike.”  I smiled.

I gave her the bike and she walked it onto the center of the driveway.  Emilie had grown a lot that summer and her long, lean body was obviously too big for Madeline’s bike.  She hopped on, gave me a quick smile, and took off!  Without hesitation, without a fumble, she road the bike up the driveway and back.  I was in shock!  I yelled for Robbie and the other girls to come out and see what I had just witnessed.  Emilie was trying to contain her smile as I lined them all up to watch her.  I will always remember how we all cheered and laughed as she flawlessly road on two wheels that night.  But what ended up impressing me the most about that night is what I overheard Emilie tell Madeline.  She said, “I knew I could do it Madeline, because I watched you do it.”

Today Madeline was giggling remembering that sweet story.  I smiled, but inside I ached.  What will my two little ones remember of their sister?  All the times they played, laughed, fought, cried and pretended together.  Memories at this age are so fragile.  Whenever Madeline or Samantha have stories they tell of Emilie, Robbie and I quickly write them down.

It scares me sometimes how fast it feels like my memories of her are disappearing.  Robbie once compared it to watching something float away from you in the ocean.  It just keeps drifting further and further away from you.  I think that is why the idea of getting rid of her belongings is so hard for me.  I want reminders.  I don’t want to forget.  So we write them down.  I write.  Robbie writes.  We try to hold on to as much as we can.  It is so painful to admit it, but I know the girls will need our help to remember her.  It will be the stories we retell, the pictures we flip through, and the videos we watch that will help them keep those memories around.  That is how Emilie will stay with us.