In an early photograph of me, I’m riding on a bicycle with my dad. I’m a toddler, maybe 2-1/2, wearing a dress. He’s dressed like a handsome character from Mad Men, like maybe he threw his suit jacket on porch after work before he decided to take me for a ride. Dad’s doing all the work, peddling and steering, his lanky arms encircling me as he grasps the handle bars. I’m holding the handle bars, too, the look on my face bearing a combination of joy and concentration.
In the next scene from my memory involving a bike, I’m riding a two-wheeled bike by myself. Dad’s behind me, running along steadying the bike as I try to master balance. I remember looking back and down behind my banana seat, trying to determine if Dad was still with me. At some point, I was on my own.
Fast forward to about seventh grade, or more accurately, the summer between sixth and seventh grades. Every single day that summer, I road my bike to the public pool at 1 p.m. and splashed around until it closed at 5. One day, as I was hastily parking my bike so I could get into the pool the same minute it opened, the kickstand failed (or I failed to engage it, I don’t remember), and the bike fell against the side of my leg and down to the ground. Some stray part or screw gouged a 10-inch lazy-S-shaped scratch along my bare thigh. Oh, that stung when I jumped into the chlorinated pool! I still have the scar (because, of course, I picked it).
Now it’s Christmastime. I think I was in ninth grade. I begged for cowboy boots because the popular blonde basketball star in my grade I envied had some. I’m quite sure I described them in detail and made sure “Santa” knew my shoe size. After Santa paid his visit, I tiptoed downstairs sometime after midnight but before dawn to review my stash. Instead of finding a box the right size to accommodate cowboy boots, I found a red 10-speed bike with a bow on it.
I was so disappointed.
Any other kid would have loved a bike, but I didn’t get cowboy boots. And I lived deep in the heart of Minnesota, by the way, so I knew I couldn’t ride that big, beautiful bike for at least five months (I could have worn the cowboy boots).
The next memory of biking that I actually still don’t remember would have occurred the summer after I graduated high school. I don’t really remember it because it involved a head injury.
I had volunteered to make some posters of some sort for the Active Christians Teens youth group, so I rode my 10-speed bike to church to pick up a bunch of rolled-up poster board and colored markers. The church was at the top of a long, low hill. I had the poster board under one arm, and I was attempting to hold a bunch of markers while steering my bike with my other hand. I picked up speed down the hill and hit a pool of gravel.
That’s the last thing I remember.
The street sweeper found my body in the middle of the intersection, surrounded by poster board and markers.
He probably thought was I dead.
I was only unconscious. A victim of a concussion. I don’t remember anything about the ambulance ride to the hospital, but I survived. More or less.
As an adult I picked up a hybrid bike somewhere along the line. I don’t remember when or where, but apparently it was sometime during my tenure with Husband No. 1. I brought it with me to Illinois when I married Husband No. 2 and put quite a few miles on it on the streets of Hampshire over the past few years. Living less than a mile from the post office, the bank and the gym, I could hardly justify firing up the Honda for errands so I rode my bike in the summer.
At the end of last summer, Husband No. 2 (aka my Beloved) decided my bike was a piece of junk and he threw it away without even asking my permission.
He had a plan (as he is wont to do).
For my birthday, he bought me a new bike.
He tried to talk me into a some old lady version that looks like the bike Miss Gulch (aka the Wicked Witch) rides in The Wizard of Oz. No way — I already evoke the doot-doot-doot-do-do-do light motif in the heads of onlookers when I’m on the road. No, instead it’s a sweet hybrid bike with nice straight handlebars and not-too-nubby tires.
And it’s a sharp-looking bright blue. Very sophisticated.
Ready for making miles of memories.