It’s after dinner. Tony rides his bike and Sasha his scooter. We venture down the hill chatting and Sasha rattling as he rolls over bumps on the sidewalk. Most times both boys talk at once and they are so excited I don’t have the heart to stop either of them so I do my best to sharpen my journalistic ear and pay equal attention to both. Sasha has recently started to throw a few decibels more into the conversations since he figured out that the competition is strong. Take that into account of course.
It is one of the first summer evenings when the air is still moist after a good midday soak. The trees are heavy with greenness and warm air. Most of the houses on this part of the neighborhood are old and small, beautiful houses with their souls still alive, sleeping peacefully under wooden porches or up in dusty attics. There is an old white house with a “For sale” sign in front, a good-sized porch and a wild unmanicured garden. Double lot it says on the sign. Three people in the wild garden, whom I mistake for potential buyers, are simply there to share a bong over a couple of big backpacks with a few items exploded out of them. The smoke raising from the glass contraption is thick and yellow. You don’t see a bong here everyday. The boys are of course oblivious to the three men affair in their hunt for good smooth-pavement slopes. A tire-swing up the street makes them both throw their wheeled vehicles and run full speed towards it.
Their loud voices arguing over who will go first spark through the orange sunset air like agitated bees. Let’s sit down and settle it, I tell them. Tony goes first because he’s more experienced. He laughs and swings and we push him harder and he makes faces, silly happy ones. Sasha has a turn, reluctant but willing. A short turn and then it’s me, I try it and if I didn’t know any better I’d say it’s a smiling machine rather than a tire swing. Tony again and then Sasha with renewed courage. His little hands hang on for dear life and his face lights up with laughter. We give him pushes, he flies from one to another and he laughs thick belly laughs that only little kids can laugh. There are no more trees or houses or clouds and green lush leaves, there is only my little boy’s laughter gushing out of his little belly and his older brother looking me with a clear understanding that this is too precious to let go of yet and he will not let me stop it until the little belly owner calls it quits. Sprinkles of Sasha’s laughter are all around us in that moist evening summer air. His white knuckles are taking one for the team. Happy souls lighting up the air like fireflies. I see a loving big brother, his eyes warm with the pleasure of making that magic laughter happen. Sure they’ll fight again, they’ll say things to each other that will make me cringe but right now it’s laughter until Sasha’s little belly is all empty of it and he asks “May we please go home now?” Just like that. Yes, we may. We walk and wheel uphill and I watch Tony pedaling with all his might. His is a heavy mountain bike. Not a peep of complaint, not a second of rest. If he ever falls there is grunting but no crying. It strikes me how easy it is to forget to honor my growing boy and all that quiet determination he puts into showing it to me every day. Will I remember tomorrow and for all the days to follow? I hope so. Just like I hope to remember Sasha’s laughter and that warm gaze his brother wrapped him up in.