I am at the top of the seven-mile climb and have already paused my watch, have my phone in hand and am ready to record the view, vastly different from yesterday’s downhill meandering. At that exact moment, my oldest calls me from 1200 miles away, tears caught in her throat before she can fully say hello.
There I stand, at the top of the bike path as cyclists whiz past, waving, acknowledging, or ignoring my very private conversation, completely unaware of the pain that crosses the miles.
I just wanted a picture. A moment to myself. That ever-satisfactory moment of redemption only a cyclist can truly appreciate. Because unlike hiking up to the top of a mountain where the downhill return can be just as challenging, unlike the easy ride of a chairlift to a blustery peak followed by a set of skis pointed downhill, there is a deep-rooted satisfaction in your quads building, your breath running out, your energy sapped, your pedals pushing, that will soon be released into a rush of downhill glory once you have reached the top of that hill.
I have made the climb, and now I must make the talk. It isn’t easy. It never is. Not when they’re two days old and won’t wake up or won’t stop crying, not when they’re two years old and won’t listen, not when they’re twelve and won’t do anything with you anymore, not when they’re seventeen and still need your advice no matter how far they’ve flown.
And so I stop. I listen. I console. I advise. I calm her.
And I click into my pedals and head back down the other end of this glorious hill for the glorious downhill home, the view, the path, the beating sun, the other cyclists, the climb behind me.
Knowing that there will be another path to take tomorrow. Another strenuous climb or an easy meandering jaunt. Knowing that she may call, that my boy may cry, that my youngest might resent me for always forgetting her, my middle child will likely toss her snarkiness my way, that there will be a million more incidents like the call I just took at the top of that hill.
Knowing that I can still have my moment because this, THIS is my moment. Being their mom. Whether I’m pedaling up or clicking back in for the thrill-ride down, they are with me.
They are part of the climb, the downhill, the wind blowing at my back or in my face, the muscles I build and the pain and joy and exhilaration and love that is cycling.
They are this picture from the top of every hill, blue and perfect, clouds waiting. Life.
They are my life.