Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Like Riding a Bike

A poem yesterday on Writer's Almanac got me to thinking and remembering. It's a poem about a parent watching a daughter ride away for the first time on a bike.  Here it is, if you missed it (and even if you didn't!):

To a Daughter Leaving Home

by Linda Pastan
When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

"To a Daughter Leaving Home" by Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening. © Norton, 1998

I remember learning to ride a two-wheeler.  Amarillo, Texas.  4242 West 13th Street, a little brick ranch house in a leafy neighborhood.  Early 1950s.  I was able to mount the bike only from the front porch (the bike was so tall, not a little kid's version ... was it my older brother's?), push off, then crash a few feet later. Over and over. Mount, push off, brief glide, crash.

Then--one magical day--the crash did not ensue, and I realized I was staying up! On down the sidewalk I flowed, exhilarated as I've been on only a few other occasions in my life.  I'm riding a bicycle!

A cross street approached.  I didn't yet know how to use the brakes--the old-style that required the rider to push backward on one of the pedals.  Oops.  So I did the only thing I could do: I crashed on purpose--and this time it hurt a little more: I'd been going quite a bit faster.  But I didn't care.  I can ride a bicycle!  Back to the porch I pushed the bike, mounted, coasted, crashed.  Over and over.

A few days later I figured out the brake thing.

Our son, Steve, was about the same age (7-ish) when he managed for the first time without training wheels.  We were living in Lake Forest, Illinois (1978-1979 school year), where both Joyce and I were teaching at Lake Forest College.  An old friend from Aurora days was living in Chicago then, and we got together quite a few times.  His wife's family had a place on Lake Michigan, and we visited there one weekend, taking Steve's bike along with us.

He was ready ... he'd been ready, or so his words had told us.  There was a big circular drive in front of our friends' place, a drive connecting the other houses along the shore.  No traffic.  Safe.  We had removed the training wheels back at home, and now we were going to try.  Steve mounted.   (The bike was one of those smaller ones--no porch-mounting for this spoiled generation!)  We gave him a little push ... off he went ... we waited for the crash ... it didn't come.

Then I was jogging after him, then alongside him.  Ready to catch him.  I didn't need to.  On his face was the most delighted look I think I'd ever seen--or equal, maybe, to the look that came with that first word, that first sentence, that first page he actually read.  It was the look of love.

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