Although I never asked, and I’ll never know, I often assume that my arrival on the scene was quite the surprise my for parents. The only solid piece of information I have for that assumption is that there’s no less than a decade between me and my older brother. And my mom had 1 sister, Dorothy, and they were best friends, and my aunt had 3 kids. My brother and cousins are all within 5 years of each other, and then there was me.
The great thing about being the baby, literally, in a family is that you’re pretty much have around-the-clock adoration. I assume this is similar to what it’s like to be an only child. I have to admit, it was pretty great, especially with the cousins. I would beg and beg for them to take me places with them, even if it was just to the store, I’d feel so grow-up hanging out with them. Because I hung around with grown-ups a lot, I was often complimented on my good behavior. So, like any kid, I just kept acting less like a kid and more like a grown-up. Well, with one exception, riding bikes.
I taught myself to ride a 10 speed bike. There was an unfinished portion of the basement in the house where I grew up. There was nothing back there except for the washer and dryer and a huge wooden table for laundry folding, sorting and whatnot. I can’t remember why, maybe it was winter, maybe a cousin was storing it there, but a bike lived in the basement. I’d hang out in the basement for hours, riding the bike around the table. I’d hold on to the bike with one hand, and balance myself on the table with the other. It was awkward a lot but I eventually I let go of the table, for a second. Then I’d let go of the short side, then the long side. Then, I was riding that bike all around the basement. Even into the finished part, which may have been frowned upon so I only did that when no one was down there.
My bike was my escape. On my bike, I was a daredevil. I was typically a responsible and cautious child but all except for one of my childhood injuries were sustained on a bike. I’d jump off stuff, onto stuff. I’d find the biggest hill possible and go as fast as I could. I’d try my best to stop hard enough to burn rubber.
As I got older, and as acting like a grown-up became more of the norm and as riding bikes became less “cool,” I stopped. Especially once I got to high school and had older friends who drove. No one rides bikes when you can drive.
Because life is like this, now that I am an adult, I have to make myself act like a kid and find ways to play. The hubs has an Xbox, he got me the Kinect, I hang out with friends and I have been known to play a board game a time or two. But sometimes even play, feels like work. Except when I get on a bike.
On my bike, a free, hand-me down bike, which is the only way I know to get a bike, I can’t help but smile. I don’t jump off or onto things anymore and I can’t say that I go fast enough these days that I even have a chance of burning rubber (I accept I would not recover from injury as quickly as my 11 year old self). Nevertheless, the feeling of joy, freedom and happiness are still there, every time, and that’s the perfect help for this person who grew up too soon.