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Elissa Ely: Childhood Rites Of Passage ... During The Pandemic02:42
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"It was like being in an Olympic stadium, cheering on your nation even if the athlete can’t hear," Elissa Ely writes. (Jan Woitas/DPA/AFP via Getty Images)
"It was like being in an Olympic stadium, cheering on your nation even if the athlete can’t hear," Elissa Ely writes. (Jan Woitas/DPA/AFP via Getty Images)

Since the earth has shifted on its axis, and since we’re not supposed to leave the state, we’re not hiking in mountains anymore. But we do have the good fortune of a front porch with Adirondack chairs.

We sat there recently, watching a little girl perched on a red two-wheeler, low to the ground but clearly too high for her liking. Its handlebars were glittering with ribbons. Her father held onto the bicycle seat, jogging slowly down the middle of the empty road. Our street is level … but you could tell she had no faith.

I remember that faithlessness. My first bike had the same kind of ribbons. On a different flat stretch of road, someone I knew and loved ran beside me, telling me to hold on and pedal, while I shrieked into the wind for him to hold on, what was wrong with him? There was not a single reason on the planet to have faith.

In front of our house, the little girl — we never learned her name — wobbled to one side, then the other. Her father let the seat go briefly. She screamed.

"It went on for a week or so while we watched from the porch, waiting for magic to take hold. We had the faith that she didn’t."

Elissa Ely

The next day they were back in the middle of the road again. Her father let the seat go. She wobbled and screamed.

It went on for a week or so while we watched from the porch, waiting for magic to take hold. We had the faith that she didn’t. It was like being in an Olympic stadium, cheering on your nation even if the athlete can’t hear.

I was inside for a few days, busy with the professional obligations and distractions that continue even in the middle of global disaster. When I returned to the Adirondack chair, the street was empty at first. Then she came into view: riding a red bike, pedaling very carefully, unassisted. Her father walked behind her.

She looked over at the porch as she passed — a quick glance, not to lose balance — and smiled briefly. He recognized us and gave a thumbs up. We gave two back: a standing thumb ovation. Our nation had taken the gold. It’s true that we were more than six feet apart, but that’s how strangers come together now.

This segment aired on July 18, 2020.

Related:

Elissa Ely Creator of WBUR's The Remembrance Project
Elissa Ely is a community psychiatrist in Massachusetts and the creator of WBUR's The Remembrance Project.

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