“Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling,” said James E. Starrs, editor of “The Literary Cyclist: Great Bicycling Scenes in Literature.”
That is as true as anything I have ever heard or read. Needing to get rid of some nasty-feeling feelings and remember the happy and carefree times of youth? Just get on your bicycle.
I rode my bike all over when I was a kid. So did my sister. So did all of our friends. It was a huge part of our young lives.
My stepson, once upon a time, was always on his bike going to this friend’s and that friend’s house. And that was so great for him.
But my daughter has held back pretty steadily in the bike-riding department, until very recently at least.
This weekend the now-8-year-old daughter of mine achieved a milestone, a feat, and perhaps marked a rite of passage; she rode her bicycle for the very first time by herself.
I have pushed this for some time with her, but she just was not interested until the last couple weeks. Her disinterest was so pronounced that I think my husband and I gave up a bit.
He actually bought this bike for her a couple years ago and she was excited at first, but that faded quickly. And the pretty pink, white, and blue bike with the sparkly pink streamers flowing from the tips of the handlebars sat in the carport for a while, one if its streamers becoming a casualty of the George pup and his goat-like tendencies to eat whatever does not eat him first.
We sent her bike with her to her aunt’s house all last summer so her bike-riding cousins could show her the ropes, perhaps peak her interest. No dice.
Then a couple weeks ago she asked if she could ride her bike, so her daddy took her to the park to give it a go in the grass. You know, a softer place to fall and all. I heard no reports one way or the other. But this weekend she wanted to go and do it again, so my husband loaded her and her bike up and they went to Mitchell Park. Not 10 minutes after they left I got a video of that girl riding her bike (that lone pink streamer flowing in the wind) all by herself, and this mama laughed out loud and felt the pride well up to bursting as this little girl had conquered whatever fear had held her back before.
When they got home I was instructed to go to the alley and wait there. And there I was greeted with a rosy-cheeked, smiling-from-ear-to-ear little girl riding her bike, and it was just about the best thing I’d seen in a long time.
I was greeted by just about the same thing when I returned home Monday evening, my smiling little girl riding her bike up and down the driveway.
I cannot remember a time when I couldn’t ride a bike. She had asked me how old I was when I learned, but I just cannot remember. But I have always loved to ride a bike. And all my bike-riding escapades last summer were slow and loopy as my daughter was walking beside me rather than riding her own bike.
I remember getting frustrated that she didn’t want to learn, because it is such a great activity and there is something so freeing about it.
Sunday she joined the ranks of those who can ride a bike, and she was still beaming about it Monday morning as we readied for school. I couldn’t help but think that while I am tickled to death for her, it is a sign of her growing up and that just happens way too fast.
I don’t even remember my first bike, though I remember my first 10-speed. What came before it I cannot tell you, but I know that something did.
So now my kid has tasted that freedom and that accomplishment, and I and her father taste the bittersweet joy of watching our reticent daughter succeed at this really big thing, while simultaneously having to face that she is not a baby anymore.
“Every time you miss your childhood, ride on a bicycle,” Turkish novelist and playwright Mehmet Murat ildan said.
And that is what riding a bike feels like – childhood. So here is to my daughter enriching her own childhood, and having that ability to hop on her bike later in life to reclaim it a bit. And here is to you hopping on your bike, too.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.
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