Training Wheels

There are many expressions people often use that are really completely true, for example, “it’s like riding a bike,” to mean of course once you learn how to do it, you do not ever forget.  I have no memory of the day I got my training wheels off, but I do remember very clearly the August afternoon I took my daughter’s off when she was 5, and last summer on a hot August day when my granddaughter who had recently turned 7 decided to trust her balance and let me remove hers.  It’s a sensation that one is never supposed to forget…trusting your balance.

Until yesterday morning at 6 a.m. I had not been on a long bike ride since I rented a bike with a friend on Block Island in 1994, and the last time I had ridden a bike at all was in 2003 when I was moving from the west side of town back to the bay side of town and the bike would not fit in the back of my Pathfinder, no matter how I tried to configure the back seats or twist the bike’s wheels.

I got a bike for Christmas from my boyfriend.  It sat in the garage untouched with tags still attached for months.  I was either too lazy to get started, or too scared to fall or just too busy with other things to get on it, but last week my daughter informed me that at least two mornings a week she rides with my sister to the end and back of the trail that we have in town, and then through town, around four schools, and then back home and that they go at least 20 miles and that I should join them.  “TWENTY MILES!!!!” I thought, no way can I do that…but yesterday, I did, plus one 😉

I charged up my air compressor the other day and filled the tires and my seat and handle bar heights were adjusted by the purchaser of this bike and I sucked up my fear of being unable to keep up and yesterday morning met my child and my sister in the middle of the driveway before most of our neighbors were even awake.  It felt good to ride a bike again.  As I watched my sister painlessly pedal ahead of me, I kept hearing her voice, as a 4-year-old, “here I come on my bike, better run before I strike”  it was one of her first poems and she uttered it often in our youth on our bike rides.  It made me remember being a kid and spending all day on our bikes in the summer.  It made me remember the birthday I got THE bike…the one I begged for with the monkey handle bars and banana seat.  As I watched my daughter painlessly pedal beside her I kept thinking of myself, running, for what seemed like hours, behind her on her bike when she was little, holding onto the back of the seat as lightly as possible trying to steady her enough so she could find her own balance, and the sensation of joy when I finally let go, and watched her go…

I kept up with them yesterday better than I expected, and while my thighs burned up Rose Hill, the only high spot in our very flat town, and my knees hurt when I fell, twice, and I almost fell  in soft spots on the trail trying to duck under overgrown branches, I realized that your body remembers, your muscles and your bones and your spirit does not forget the fun of being a little kid and having freedom and getting somewhere on your own by your own power.  I felt sore when I got back home yesterday morning, but I felt excited…that I did it, that I liked it, that despite falling I had a fun time, that the sweat felt good, the muscle burn felt good, that it felt nice to spend some time with my daughter and my sister…You do not grow too old to love the feeling of propelling yourself forward, hoping no bugs fly into your mouth, laughing when you fall down and knowing you have to brush yourself off and get back on, but mostly I realized you never forget that you can trust your own balance and when you find you might be slipping, only you can readjust, nobody can do it for you, and for that memory more than any, I am so glad I joined them…

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