Flag with Wreath

Flag with Wreath

Flag with Wreath, Morris, Connecticut © Steven Willard

Christmas day was beautiful; sunshine, temperature in the 40s, and as you can see from the photograph, not a cloud in the sky. I was reminded of the year I got a bike for Christmas. It was candy apple red, before the invasion of English three speeds with their skinny tires, and way before I had ever heard of ten speed bikes with derailleurs. I had never ridden a bike before, so after the everyone had opened their presents and we were waiting for dinner, dad took me outside to help me learn to ride. I think I must have been about seven.

It was a day much like today, but there was no snow on the ground. Dad held the bike steady while I got up on the seat, my feet barely reached the pedals and I was nervous, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do something I’d seen other kids do. Before I had a chance to worry too much about it dad started to trot next to the bike, one hand on the bike and the other hand on my shoulder, letting me know I was safe. We started off down the sidewalk, him giving me encouragement and instructions. At the bottom of the hill we lived on he turned me around and he pushed me back up to the corner where we lived. There he turned me around for another go. This time as we started another run, he ran a little faster and the gyro effect of the turning wheels helped stabilize the bike. That, and the fact I was starting the get the hang of what it felt like to pedal and steer, gave me more confidence. Once again at the bottom we turned around to make another trip back up to the top of the hill. All the time dad was making gentle suggestions about what I was doing wrong, but praising me for what I had gotten right. We turned around at the corner and started the third run. This time I was peddling harder, going faster than I’d ever gone under my own power, the cold wind making my eyes water. It wasn’t until we had gotten about half way down the run that I realized dad wasn’t pushing me, what’s more he didn’t even have a hand on me or the bike. I was doing it all on my own, but he was running along beside me, just in case I needed him.

I rode that bike until I was old enough to drive. The bike got passed on to one of the younger kids on our street, but I’ll never forget that Christmas, and the first time I rode my new bike. God, how I miss my dad who died much too young at fifty-five. I’ll be seventy in a few days and there are a lot of times I wish for him to still be there, trotting next to me, giving me encouragement.


Olympus OMD EM1 with 12-40mm f2.8 zoom lens. Part of my reason for making this image was to see how the camera/lens handles shooting into the sun. I must say I think it does very well indeed. No flare, no fringing or ghosting. I applied no corrections in Photoshop, not even sharpening, and this was at f22 where conventional wisdom says the lens will show less sharpness due to diffraction. Oh, and by the way, this is from a jpeg file.



One comment on “Flag with Wreath

  1. nikkorbacher says:

    The little tidbits you occasionally share about your father are interesting to me. I knew him as a warm, funny, and gently teasing man, but of course I didn’t see him in a day-to-day context, and I had the immaturity of youth. Maybe I’ve told you this before, but I do remember riding once in his car with him. (I think it was a Corvair.) He was funny and called me “Murgatroyd.”
    I also remember one of his sermons where he mentioned that he and you would occasionally sit down and look at car magazines together.


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