Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My First Bicycle

It was Christmas time in the rural Nebraska town where we lived. Snow covered the ground and it was our first Christmas there. We had moved, following Dad's job on the railroad, just in time for me to start kindergarten in a new and strange place in the middle of the term. Amidst the loneliness of making new friends and the terror and joy of the new experiences I was undergoing, one thing was clear and bright: I wanted a bicycle for Christmas. That was the thing that occupied my dreams day and night: a bicycle!

We left the house in the early evening that Christmas Eve and I don't clearly remember where we went. I believe the trip was really designed to get my little brother and I out of the house. (I seem to remember Christmas Carols and hot chocolate being involved.) When we arrived back at the house, my brother and I were wound up like the proverbial tops. After all, it was Christmas Eve and there had been sugar! The door of the house was opened and in we walked. Someone reached around the corner and turned on the lights. And there, standing in front of the Christmas tree, was a beautiful brownish red bike. Right beside it was a smaller emerald green bike. Santa Claus had come and gone. My brother and I had our first BIKES!!!

Both bikes already had the training wheels attached. My brother and I couldn't stand the idea that we were not going to be able to ride these magnificent steeds that night. How could we not? They we so bright and shiny and beautiful. After much cajoling,whining, and begging, we were allowed to at ride them a bit in the living room (which was all of 2 bike lengths long and wide). We went to bed reluctantly, eager for morning so we could take our bikes outside and ride.

Far too early on Christmas morning, my brother and I were up and eagerly waiting for breakfast to be over. We didn't care that it was well below zero and snowing, we wanted to take our bikes outside and ride. And so we did. We rode on the sidewalk and the neighbors cleared driveway until we were too cold to move. I can still remember the feeling of power and freedom imparted by that first ride. All else disappeared in the joy of effortless motion. And the pride of ownership! We were so proud of our steeds.

By the time late summer arrived, it was time to remove the training wheels. I can still remember Dad running along side me on the bike, his hand on the bicycle seat ready to catch me as I learned to ride without the training wheels. And I can remember him doing the same for my brother as he learned how ride without training wheels. Those memories have stayed in the forefront of the memories I have of those years in Nebraska.

Of course, I can also remember the neighbor on the corner watching vigilantly lest we cut the sidewalk corner short and ride on *his* lawn. And I remember Jo Ann, the "older" girl who lived on the other side of us, roller skating with us as we rode our bikes around and around the block. (Since none of us was yet allowed to cross the street alone.)

I was broken hearted when I outgrew that brownish-red bicycle. It had been a faithful companion and seen me through the adjustment to a new home. It had been a jeep and a tank and an airplane in my imagination as we played various games. It had given me mobility and the chance to go to the park and to visit my friends once I was allowed to cross the street. It was a bit like losing a friend and a piece of childhood to see it go. But I got a bigger bike and rode on. The love affair with bicycles started with that first bike continues today, 45+ years later. The only question now is how many more years before I need training wheels again?

This post was written for Scribbit's Write-Away Contest. Check out the winners and all the stories on Feb. 21st.

... another day older and and deeper in debt ...

Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday to Me
I look like a monkey
And live in a tree


  1. This was great! I love that you remember your first "steed" so lovingly. I hope my son has such good memories of his bike and learning to ride and the freedom that comes with it.

    And, I guess, Happy Birthday to you! : )

  2. K I have to start with LOL because of the song at the end :) I don't think you look like a monkey (I've seen your cartoon face :D). I hope you had a nice birthday so far. I enjoyed this story. It reminded me of riding around the room holding on to the wall (my first bike ride without training wheels) :)

  3. I can just picture you riding the bikes in the living room--your mother must have been a saint :)

  4. Lovely, lovely story. And happy birthday!

  5. Seems my updater has failed to alert me when you post!! No idea why. I'm SO behind so instead of attempting to catch up, I'll just start fresh.

    Happy Birthday!

  6. Hey Dan :) I hope you had a nice birthday. I just wanted to leave you a note and tell you I finally got your feed lol I ended up subscribing in a reader and that gave me a different feed url now it's updating on my dashboard too yay. Ok, I'll hush now. Have a good one!

  7. Hey, happy birthday! And happy birthday to L in five days!

    Bike stories are the best. Love it.

  8. Love the imaginary roles of your steed! And happy belated birthday...


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