Brenna, Jessica and I spend a sunny spring afternoon bicycling Boise’s Greenbelt along the river through six parks with a pitstop at Joe’s Crabshack to grease the wheels.
This is almost déjà vu. Sixteen years ago I was bike commuting from my apartment on the Bench to the Albertsons office along this stretch while the first Parkcenter bridge was under construction. It was months of nearly these same detours.
“Where are we going?” Brenna wonders as we follow orange signs off the path, down streets and sidewalks and across parking lots. We all let out whoops as we roll rapidly down the office garage ramp behind Chili’s. It’s a bit of adventure.
“Do you want to stop and play?” Jessica asks Brenna as we roll presumptively toward the large and busy playground at Ann Morrison Park. We’re surprised to hear her answer, “no!” Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I quickly point us back to the riverside path to cross over Americana Boulevard and continue downriver.
“What are those from?” Brenna asks, pointing to baseball sized pockmarks in the inch thick steel beam.
“I’m not sure,” I confess, “but they’re probably from when the building burned and fell.” We’ve stopped at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Riverside Park which, since 2013,¹ includes a piece of the World Trade Center. I show her video of the buildings’ collapse on my phone, expecting her to ask why that happened. But she doesn’t so we leave it at that for now.
Brenna is primarily interested in the statues. Jessica and I explain firefighting and why it’s sometimes deadly. “Can girls be firefighters?” Brenna asks.
“Of course,” we answer.
“Don’t ride on rocks,” Jessica warned me earlier. We were biking a couple weeks ago and I rode up some rocks meaning to wheelie off. Instead I flipped over the handlebars and landed on my face. I remind myself that my skillset is smaller than I imagine as we follow a dirt path around tempting obstacles into the trees near Veterans Memorial Park.
We have ridden about eight miles along the river with a surprising absence of complaints from Brenna. We spend a few minutes exploring a patch of woods before turning back.
Revisiting favorite childhood TV series is often disappointing. Were they always that cheesy? It is reassuring, on the other hand, when something unexperienced for years seems unchanged. It is connection, continuity, identity. The ride today is like that — everything as it always has been.
We stop to look around the Bloch Cancer Survivor Plaza in Julia Davis Park.¹ Stone slabs are engraved with advice and encouragement around a circle of colored, kinetic kite sculptures.
The light turns golden as sunset draws near. We step off our bikes to look around the familiar patch of woods around the river rope swing near our house.
I doubt the current crop of summer rope swingers are aware there was not many years ago a bigger swing from a tree that now lies at the edge of the woods, still impaled with the old climbing spikes (likely cause of its demise).
“This is so beautiful,” Brenna says of a patch of warmly lit grass beneath a gnarled but blossoming tree. “Can we have a picnic here?” she asks insistently.
I know the pleasure of discovering magical places as a kid — the quiet clearing in deep forest, a few steadfast aspens among evergreens, wildflowers amidst brambles. Such places I found and treasured in the forest around my childhood home. I am happy seeing Brenna delight in simple things.
The ladybug Brenna befriended about seven miles ago has not fared well.
Like a bend in the river, this day already existed in spacetime (implied by Special Relativity) even though we’ve just now flowed through it. So too, long after I’m gone, it will still be here.