Get Out and Explore

Are you much for exploring? It’s one of my favorite ways to have fun. When my son was little, we lived near the University of Memphis. It turned out to be a great neighborhood, because we could readily explore it on our bikes. I remember Evan first asking for a bike when he was just two-and-a-half. Can you believe it? I think he got the idea from watching older kids zip past us at Marquette Park. He was intrigued. When Christmastime rolled around, it was the only thing on his list. After talking it over, his father and I decided we’d get him a small bike. Of course, what I had in mind was more along the lines of a trike or a Big Wheel. Something safe. So when my husband wheeled the new purchase into our dining room, I literally gasped. It was a two-wheeler, with training wheels, and so much bigger than I had expected. I wasn’t even convinced Ev would be able to manage it.

“Ah, don’t worry. He’ll grow into it,” his dad assured me.

Of course, on Christmas morning when I saw my kid perched up on that seat so proudly, I couldn’t help but smile. He was psyched. As the days got warmer, my kid began to test his mettle. He spent afternoons riding up and down the driveway, finding his balance, building his confidence, and almost always sporting a grin. As spring gave way to summer, we ventured a bit farther, taking the little bike across the street to ride on the wide sidewalks of the campus. At first, I walked beside him. But soon I was dusting off my own bike so we could ride together. 

A favorite destination during those early adventures was the maintenance lot where the tractors were stored. It was pretty cool, pretending to drive those dusty beasts. We would ride to the shed, give our imaginations a workout, and then peddle back home. 

When Evan would tire, I’d hear him call out, “My legs aren’t working, my legs aren’t working.” That was my sign to stop for a drink and maybe a snack before continuing on. 

“Not much further,” I’d assure him.

As the years progressed, our excursions grew lengthier. The training wheels came off the summer he turned 4, and by the time he was in kindergarden, we were riding to his school, about four blocks from the house. On the weekends we’d explore further, dropping into the library to read a book, on to the bakery for a donut, and then the Goodwill store for a rummage. Along the way, we’d invariably discovery something in the neighborhood we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. That’s what made those excursions so much fun, the discovery was reward in itself. 

And while it may seem as circuitous as our rides were, it struck me as we put together this year’s Family Survival Guide, that this issue also invites exploration — of our city. As you page through the guide, you’ll be surprised by the number of programs and services that are offered by so many different outlets. And what is highlighted here is geared specifically to children and families. 

Sometimes the services aren’t readily apparent. You have to seek them out. But in compiling this information, we’ve made your job a whole lot easier. Just keep our Survival Guide handy. And that the next time you need information, whether it’s on a school, a theater, or perhaps just a place to go and explore, you’ll find it’s all right here at your fingertips. Happy travels. 

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