Somewhere between the ages of six and nine I learned how to ride a two wheel bicycle. I don’t remember when it was exactly, but I can picture the bike like it was sitting in my garage right now, which I wish it was cause it would be worth a fortune in memories and a potential fortune in parts. The bike was purple with a white banana seat with a unicorn on it. I’ve tried to find some images online so I can post one here because just thinking about it brings me joy. Sadly the internet has failed me…or my lack of tech savvy has. Either way: no image. Le sigh. Le boo hoo.
At any rate, I remember my friend, Tamara, and I going up to the top of the parking garage with her older sister and our bikes. Her older sister explained to the both of us how to get on our bikes and how to pedal. She then proceeded to hold our seats, one at a time, as we each tried to ride. I have no idea how long we were up there. In my memory it was the entire day. In reality it was likely thirty minutes. Regardless, there was a point in time where my friend figured it out and was riding and was having so much fun. I was thrilled for her and couldn’t wait to join her. But I couldn’t get it. I tried and tried and I couldn’t get it. I finally made some excuse and said I was going home. I walked my bike over to where the parking garage started to go down to the next level, where I felt I was far enough away that no one could see me. And I cried.
I cried, and cried, and cried, as I walked the bike down through the parking garage. At one point, I realized it would be easier to coast down through the garage than to continue walking the bike, so I sat on the seat with my legs splayed out in a v on either side and coasted down through the garage. At some point as I was coasting I also put my feet on the pedals. At some point with my feet on the pedals I used the pedal breaks and then also pedaled forward. By the time I got to the bottom of the garage I was riding a bike.
I was so elated. So vindicated. So thrilled. Beyond thrilled. I felt like I was flying. I felt like I was free.
That was the beginning of freedom for me. Ever since freedom has felt like wind rushing through my hair and my pulse jackhammering. I felt free not when I first learned to drive, but when I first drove alone with the window down, my hair streaming back. I felt free when I went skydiving and we were freefalling, the wind forcing my hair back. When the freefall ended and the chute came out it was beautiful and still and eerily quiet; I no longer felt free but it was still a phenomenal experience. As an adult I got a mountain bike for Christmas (my first bike in roughly twenty years) and the first time I rode it fast enough to need the breaks, my now shorter hair streaming back, I laughed exalted by the freedom I felt.
My oldest son who has been riding some version of a wheeled transportation device since he was ten months old (since before he could walk!), learned how to ride a two wheel bike yesterday. The bike that had training wheels on it for a year longer than he’s needed them because he refused to let us take them off. It wasn’t until we were all going on bike rides together and he realized how much the training wheels slowed him down that he finally agreed they should be removed but wouldn’t actually let us remove them.
On Wednesday we were at the park with friends and he rode his friends bike that doesn’t have training wheels. He rode it no problem. He got his confidence in himself and his abilities back and as soon as we got home he begged his dad to take his training wheels off. Once they were gone, he got scared again, begging dad to put them back on. He was told he could ride his balance bike if he didn’t want to ride his pedal bike, but the training wheels were staying off.
Thursday he let me hold the bike seat while he jumped on and pedaled for about two seconds before jumping back off. Friday was a repeat of Thursday, with one crucial difference: when he said he was done and I put the bike down and walked away to go do something else, he picked the bike back up. He sat on the bike and cruised down the driveway on it, his legs in a v to either side. And then he put his feet on the pedals to use the breaks. And then he used the pedals to propel himself forward. And then he realized he could do it. He began laughing. He cried out, “mommy! Mommy! Look at me! I’m doing it! Woo hoo!”
His pleasure at being able to ride, his pleasure at being free, his pleasure at having the wind in his hair, absolutely made my day. I took a few videos of him riding. I asked him if he was proud of himself (yes!) and told him I was proud of him. I can’t stop watching the videos. The look on his face. The sparkle in his eyes. I am immediately transported to being somewhere between six and nine with a unicorn banana seat bicycle, all of my frustration and fear whipped away by the wind in my hair. The pure joy.
I can’t wait to ride my bike again. I can’t wait to ride bikes with my son. I can’t wait to be free together.
~~~That’s one hour~~~