Good to his word Sydney climbed out of bed early the next morning. The sun wasn’t quite up but the birds were singing and yesterday’s cloudy skies and on again off again light rain had blown gently away. They’d left the bedroom windows open and as he threw the covers off his wife quickly reached down and pulled them back up to her chin. He reached under the covers, found her right butt cheek and gave it a gentle pinch. Athol rewarded him with an air kiss as she grabbed his hands out from under the blankets and groggily whispered, “Sleep.”
He brushed the hair from her face before he kissed her cheek and answered, “Coffee,” in a deep voice.
“Shh, shh. Later. Too loud. Sleep,” Athol insisted as she pulled the covers even tighter around her.
Sydney smiled at his wife as he pulled a long sleeve tee and sweat pants on. As great as it’d felt cuddling under the covers with Athol it was chilly in their room. He went downstairs, started coffee, glanced at the thermometer by the back door and went outside to get the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Iowa City Press Citizen from their boxes at the top of his driveway. The 48 degree temperature of the concrete felt even cooler on his bare feet than it had on his bare skin inside his room and he hurried back up the drive with the two papers. He mixed pancake batter, turned the burner on beneath the griddle and got his and Athol’s bikes down from their storage hooks. Maggie’s 24″ wheeled mountain bike was tucked out of the way sitting on its kickstand and he gathered four water bottles from the garage and brought them into the house where he set them by the sink. He poured two cups of coffee, added sugar to one and walked them upstairs. Walking through the master bedroom and to the master bath he set the black coffee next to the sink.
Back in the bedroom he gently pulled the covers down to Athol’s shoulders with one hand and sipping his brew said, “Wakey, wakey time. There’s coffee by the sink, my cutie pie.”
“Hmmmm,” can be viewed as either a verbal or non-verbal response, but the, “thanks,” that Ath mumbled next was about the best he hoped for at seven a.m. on a Sunday.
“I’ll get the pancakes going, you get Maggie up,” he commanded.
The responding, “Hmmmmm,” that answered him as he made his way out of their room and down to the kitchen seemed to be a regression but he felt confident that the wheels of progress were turning. Once in the kitchen he poured relatively equal sized pancakes on the non-stick pan and managed to flip them at a propitious moment so that they were nicely brown without being burned and retained their mostly round shape. He put the largest flapjack on a plate that he set on the table, three of the smallest on another and three medium sized ones on the third. Milk, butter and syrup all were placed on the table as his two girls stumbled down the stairs.
“Breakfast is on the table, pour yourself some juice or milk and get silverware please,” Sydney declared as ruffled his daughter’s hair.
Margaret’s proclivity for mornings fell between her parents’ but she usually settled into her day fairly quickly. “Sun is out and things should be gorgeous in about an hour when we get to riding,” Sydney said between bites. “I’ll get the bikes pumped up once we’re done with our pancakes and then we can load ’em up and head to the trail. It’s a beautiful day; should be perfect for riding.”
“Okay, Daddy, that sounds nice.”
Sydney finished first, drained his coffee cup and placed his dirty dishes in the sink where he filled the water bottles. “I’ll go get the bikes ready, you guys clean up, okay?” Without waiting for an answer Sydney returned to the garage with the bottles and got the bikes’ tires aired and gathered helmets and bike gloves. He put everything in the truck’s bed and then made his way into the house via the now clean kitchen. Checking the thermometer one more time he replaced his sweat pants with shorts but left the long sleeve tee-shirt on. Clumping downstairs he hollered, “Are we ready to go?”
“Yes!” sang out the soprano duet and soon the Porters clambered into the full sized, four wheel drive pickup and headed north on I 380 and then worked their way to C Street, Tait Cummins and the Cedar River Nature Trail. They parked and Sydney took the bikes out of the truck bed.
At a little after eight in the morning crossing C Street to get to the trail was easy and Sydney said, “Okay, lets head north!”
“North?!” wailed Maggie, “Aren’t we going to go over the trestle bridge?”
“Huh?” came Sydney’s dignified response. “I thought we were going north. The trail’s only like two miles if we go south.”
“But, Daddy I want to go over the bridge,” she said, pushing her lower lip out.
“Well, how about if we head north first and then ride to the railroad track bridge at the end?” Sydney suggested.
“But I want to go first,” Maggie responded. “Please?”
Exhaling deeply Sydney said, “Fine. Head south.”
Maggie smiled and led the Porters up the southward incline towards the bridge that spanned the railroad tracks. As they climbed Athol asked him, “Do you know what the difference between a bribe and a reward is?”
Sydney made a face and ventured, “A reward is legal but a bribe isn’t?”
“Ha! Maybe,” his wife answered, “but I meant when dealing with children. If you give a child something for doing what you tell her after she’s done it then it’s a reward but if you give it to her before then it’s a bribe.”
“So now I’m bribing our daughter?”
“Well, you tell me.”
“I just let her go to the bridge first, that’s all.”
“I know; just something to keep in mind. We both know that our little girl’s got her great big strong daddy wrapped around her little finger. When she hits puberty there’ll be hell to pay if we don’t start setting some expectations now.”
“Okay, Tiger Mama, I hear you.”
“Yes, but do you listen?”