The “Papa Emi Day” was a family tradition when my daughter and I would head out for a day-long bicycle adventure exploring the city and suburbs around our home in Japan. We did this on days when Yumiko was otherwise occupied and unable to join us. Our steed was a sturdy bicycle built for two, with a comfy child seat in back and lots of space for luggage and toys. We called that bicycle the “Papa Emi Bike” and together Emily and I made lots of memories before she first grew too big for the bike, and we had to switch to the car, and then later too old for dad, and she naturally switched to her friends.
Our new life routine in the USA includes working Saturdays every other week for Yumiko. Today is one such day. Last night I asked Emily if she had plans for Saturday. She didn’t. I asked her if she’d like me to take her to the mall so she could buy some clothes. She said she did want to go shopping…but with her mother, not me. I asked if she might like to drive somewhere interesting for lunch. She did. But she didn’t want to drive. She wanted to take the bike.
So today’s our first real Papa Emi Day in several years. The sun is rising. The weather appears chill but nice. And I topped off the fuel tank last night giving us easy range anywhere within the great metropolis of Los Angeles. There are words on the back of my motorcycle which read “softy” and “papa” which is actually a special code I made up when Emily was three years old meaning “Emily” and “Dad” as softy was my daughter’s nickname then. The “Papa Emi Bike” appears to be back. And with it a second chance at new memories in a new land by way of a new life.
A day alone with one’s teen is a treasure one can neither possess nor repeat with surety, and only remember and appreciate should fortune allow an encore performance. Emily and I began our motorcycle adventure with a nice outdoor lunch at the beach, where she tutored me on the challenge of fitting the Japanese culture of cute (kawaii) into an American culture which typically outgrows such things before high school.My daughter is becoming comfortable on the bike, and I could sense her ease as we enjoyed a view of the deserted winter shore while motoring up the coast from Newport to Long Beach. The empty parking lots, deserted fire pits and rows of volleyball nets silently awaiting the crowds of summer. The grey sea, choppy with a light on-shore breeze. Not at all inviting.
We drove by the hospital where I was born, which I pointed out to her. She asked me about oil rigs which she thought were a sort of amusement park ride. We visited a World War Two memorial for lost submarines. And Emily learned to wave at other motorcycles as they passed on the other side of the road.
A last minute right turn onto The Path of Wildness led us somewhere we hadn’t planned, and we wound up sitting together on a dirty curb beside the bike in the parking lot of a Starbucks, sipping coffee while I answered Emily’s questions about the complex technology of the dirty and road-worn German marvel which loomed above us. She had no idea how brakes worked, or the mechanism of hydraulics, or why my bike is always so darn dirty.
Sitting on the ground next to motorcycles is something that happens when you become a rider. Especially when you ride long distances, are weary and coated with the road. You go inside and buy a coffee. And then come out and sit down near the bike. I’ve done it often, alone and with companions. And now I’ve done it with my kid. A rite of passage in fact. Though I know she has no idea.
The sky began to drop rain as we finished our coffee. Nice timing as we hurriedly put on our waterproof gear and got back on our powerful steed. Though prudence recommended we return home direct, I opted instead for the long way back. A little more time with my daughter. Making the moments stretch. Having her to myself just a bit more before childhood winks out and is gone for good.