A Golden Rite of Passage

Roberto Vazquez
LEFT TO RIGHT: Susan Mills, Maxton Johnson, Kristin Cable, Tom White (standing), Tatum Johnson, Quentin Johnson, and Susan Pailet celebrate Maxton’s rite of passage.

Susan Pailet glowed with happiness as she declared, “I love El Dorado Park.”

Along with her daughter-in-law, Kristin Cable, they’d arrived at the regional park on the last Saturday in April to witness Cable’s son, Maxton Johnson, take his first unassisted bike ride.

Pailet, who works in higher education, reflected on the beauty and impact of Long Beach’s premiere, regional park.

“I’ve had company picnics here that have just been fantastic,” then added, “I was at a dinner last week and I was with someone who I worked with for over 25 years.”

Pailet, who described the relationship as a particularly close friendship, noted, “I really think it’s the picnics we used to have.”

A Great Day For A Ride

A look of frustration briefly crossed the five year old’s face as he struggled to coordinate his balance and steering, which caused his bike to pitch, side to side, like a boat in rough waters.

Also in attendance for this special day were Cable’s parents, Tom White and Susan Mills, as well as Cable’s younger children, Quentin and Tatum Johnson, two year old twins, but quicker than ink can dry, Quentin quickly and exasperatedly corrected a reporter, “Two and a half!”

Mills spoke up and shared a little family history. “I taught his mother and her sister to ride bikes when they were about this age.”

As Mills spoke, her eyes gleamed.

She gazed at Maxton lovingly, perhaps in amazement, like only a grandparent can, or perhaps simply reflecting on her good fortune at being able to witness the miracle of life come full circle, much like the re-emergence of Spring.

Mills then added, “But Maxton was a quick learner, he’s a natural,” at which point Quentin and Tatum made it very clear they wanted to join their brother, too.

The Magic of The Outdoors

As Maxton rode back and forth before his family, his father’s mother reiterated the value and importance of El Dorado Park.

“Growing up in Long Beach, they’re lucky to live in a city with so much to offer,” Pailet stated, then added, “they love going to the beach, playing in the sand, the waves, they enjoy visiting the Aquarium … they just love going to the park and exploring the world around them,”

And right about then, like magic, the moment they’d all waited for finally arrived, as Maxton found his rhythm and balance.

The bike no longer pitched side to side but sailed smooth and true, like a ship cutting through glassy waters, free at last.

As his family cheered him on, a stranger stepped forward, exchanged high-fives with Maxton, and told him, “Nice job, little man!”

And It was true, too, what the stranger said, because Maxton Johnson was no longer the same little boy who’d earlier arrived at El Dorado Park, not after this golden day and certainly not after this unforgettable rite of passage.


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