Going for a Ride

When I ride my bike, sometimes I think about my mother. She never learned how to ride a bicycle. My mother was born in 1910 and had it even been common for families to own bicycles at that time, her family had no money for anything extra. Add to that the fact both of her parents died in the flu epidemic at the end of World War I — and by the time she was of bike-riding age, she had been farmed out to an aunt who shipped her off to a boarding school, and was separated from her brothers, who were sent to live with other relatives. When I was a kid, I begged for a bike. My parents said I had to first learn to ride the 26-inch one my older sister no longer wanted. It was in rough shape, and had been painted bright red to try and cover the dings and dents. It was large for my scrawny seven-year-old self but I was resolved, throwing myself from side to side over the middle as I switched from right to left foot in my determination to master the thing. Careening around the sidewalks of our small town, I eventually rode well enough that, on my eighth birthday, a new 24-inch blue bike appeared. A couple of years later, I came home from school to find my mother on that bike in our backyard, trying to balance as she teetered around in circles. It was the first I knew she had never learned. The bike I have now is a far cry from the childhood one with coaster brakes. It’s such a simple pleasure, cruising down a country road but I’m constantly reminded to be grateful. And I think of my mother.

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