I love the smell of dew in the first blush of the day. It creates the perfect ambience for deep breathe, a perfect morning. Sometimes I’d wake early enough to capture the slowly brightening sky and the fresh, wet cluster of lilies on the streets of Umungasi with my camera.
It’s 6 a.m on a Saturday and the sky is still grey, but there’s a bold hue of blue stretching far across it, with thin clouds racing Eastwards. There’s dew settled like transparent jelly on thickets of lush green leaves in the garden, soldier ants are nibbling at the globules. But I didn’t capture any of these because I sold my camera last week.
Niyi had wanted a bike for his 7th birthday, his mother had been the one buying his toys and I didn’t want him to be lost in the void she’d left after she died of cancer when he was just five, so I got him whatever he wanted. It felt like I was spoiling him, but he sure got his bike at the expense of my Canon PowerShot.
7:30 AM, and Niyi’s awake and loud as usual. I hear him wheel his bike all the way from the garage to meet me here in the garden.
“Dad, you said you’d teach me to ride my bike today,” he said.
“Good morning, sir,” I hinted with a scolding look. He hangs his head in a melange of realisation and shame. And after a few seconds of silence, he greets.
“You’re still in your pyjamas, boy, should’ve taken it off first before bringing your bike.”
Silence engulfs him again. I know he feels guilty. But I understand. He’s just too excited to learn to ride his bike. Niyi looks a tad older than he should: too tall for a boy of 7, broad shoulders, and a very curious mind.
We both walk to the estate’s park. There are people there either jogging or doing several other aerobics. We find a spacious corner and I help him sit on the saddle. I hold the handlebar and he follows, he sets his feet on the pedals and begins to cycle slowly while I maintain the bicycle’s balance. He starts off a bit uneasily but slowly settles in with each distance he covers under my guide. When I notice he’s comfortable, I let go.
I think he's hurt his knee, he doesn’t cry, but he gives me that look. Betrayal. I see it in his eyes and I smile.
“Get up, boy, falling is part of the process. Let’s try again.”
He gets back to his feet and pulls his bike along for another round, I repeat what I did before. This time he pedals for a few seconds before he falls. It didn’t get him sad, I think it got him angry, he jumps to his feet and climbs the bike again in a bid to do it himself. He fails. I suddenly feel an urge to take a break and draw some lessons from all these.
He has to know that I will not always be here to hold the bike while he pedals away in comfort. He will learn to ride on his own, but first, he has to learn to fall and to bounce back each time he does. This is how life works. We don’t always succeed at the first shot, but we keep trying, we keep falling, but we never forget to get back up each time we fall. That’s how we succeed. That’s how we win.