Since moving to south Marquette four summers ago, I've ridden my bike once, maybe twice. These days I get most of my exercise at the end of a leash, led by Indy, my four-legged personal trainer. So when my daughter Melissa set up a rummage sale a few weeks back, I decided the time had come to bid farewell to my two-wheeled friend.
My bike, its spokes laced with cobwebs, red paint dulled under a fine coat of dust, leaned in a corner of the garage, looking as forlorn as the last kid picked for the kickball team. I brushed off the dust and rolled it onto the driveway, trying not to feel like a traitor as I taped a "for sale" sign to the extra wide, extra soft, middle-aged butt-contoured seat.
The bike I learned to ride on 40-some years ago was also red. It was my older brother's outgrown beginner bike. My dad moved the adjustable crossbar down, transforming it from a boy's to a girl's model. I climbed on, eager and tentative, and promptly tipped over. My dad grabbed the back of the seat and held me upright as I wobbled up and down, down and up the sidewalk.
When Dad ran out of steam I tried flying solo, hoping that my body had magically acquired the innate sense of balance required to ride a two-wheeler. Pushing off, attempting to simultaneously pedal and stay upright, I promptly crashed onto my side. I'd become a toddler again, trying to pull off that tricky double play of moving forward while staying upright.
A few scraped knees and tearstained cheeks later I found my balance, wobbling triumphantly into a new freedom. At first I was only allowed to pedal up and down our one-block street, but that was enough. I wasn't riding to get somewhere; I was riding for the rush of smooth, self-propelled motion. When I graduated to riding around the block I sometimes pedaled furiously, imagining I was a blur of speed, and sometimes pedaled as slowly as I could without falling, trying to make the journey last longer.
I got older, I got a new bike, I got off the block. I rode until my palms were shiny and sore from gripping the handlebars, until my legs, heavy as cement, could barely push the pedals. I rode with friends and alone. I rode to the A&W, to the Negaunee Public Library, to Cedar Lake, to downtown Ishpeming.
I loved my bike as if it were a living creature, as I think a lot of kids do. Bikes give children the ability to move swiftly over distances previously only within reach by settling for passenger status in a car. You're taller and stronger on two wheels, a little less oppressed by the heavy hand of parental rule. My childhood may be ancient history, but the memory of flying over pavement and bouncing along dirt roads under my own steam is as fresh as yesterday.
When I helped Melissa close down her sale my bike was still in the driveway. I think I'll hang onto it awhile longer. My inner child is alive and well, and she'd really like to go for a spin.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Deb Pascoe is a Marquette resident, mother of three and full-time editorial assistant in The Mining Journal newsroom. Her bi-weekly columns focus on her observations on life and family. She can be reached by phone at 228-2500, ext. 240, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog online at www.singlesobermom.blogspot. com.