Learning to Ride a Bike (Claire scribble)

My parents didn’t teach me to ride a bike without training wheels.

Daddy tried to.

We lived next to a park at the time, and one day after school when we were about 7 or 8, he had this momentarily flash of parenting.  He insisted I get my bike out, he’d take the training wheels off, and then we’d go to the park and he’d teach me how to ride it.

His parenting urge and patience only lasted so long.

The second time I fell down, he heaved a big sigh.

“Maybe you’re just not able to ride a bike right now.  I guess we can try again some other time.”  He stared at me a moment, then turned to walk back to the house.  He didn’t look back.

To be fair, our house was a mere 100 yards or so from the open grassy area of the park where we’d attempted this.

But I still remained on the ground, my knees skinned and bruised, trying not to cry.  Daddy hates when I cry.  Crying makes you worthless.

I pull away from myself as someone steps forward to handle the skinned knees for me.  Mute does not have emotions, so it does not have to worry about the possibility of crying. Mute heaves to it’s feet, pulls the bike firmly upright, and trails after Daddy silently.

We make sure the bike is safely stowed in the garage before entering the house, carefully removing our shoes before stepping on the carpet.  Daddy is nowhere to be seen.  He must be in his room.  We go the opposite direction, to the kitchen and Mute calmly gets a glass of water to drink.

“You need to clean those cuts.” says a cool voice behind us.  Mute is gone and Rika swings around defensively.  Daddy is looking at our knees, a strangely regretful expression on his face. “Come on.” He leads us to the bathroom, where Middi pops out to handle the sting of the alcohol and carefully applies the band-aids herself (Daddy does not like to touch us).

The next afternoon, the training wheels are back on our bike.

He doesn’t offer to teach us again.

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We don’t have a bike at Mom’s house, so there’s nothing for her to teach us on.  Plus, over there she and Roms are too busy looking after Grey.  He is a feisty toddler.

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Daddy moves to a big house in a nice neighborhood.  It is down the street from the high school and only a little further from the local middle school I start attending.  I have to walk.  I’ve never walked to school before and at first, it’s a liberating experience.  However, it takes awhile to get there and I don’t like how early I have to get up.

I see other kids riding to school on their bikes and it occurs to me that this mode of transportation would be much faster than walking.  My old bike is in the garage and I pull it out one day after school.

Daddy isn’t home- the new job that caused the move has him working late.

With a bit of help from Rika (she’s surprisingly tool-savvy), I manage to get the training wheels off myself.  I wheel it into the driveway and start attempting to ride it.

It goes horribly.  I am frustrated and puzzled.  It seems so easy for all the other kids at school.  What on earth is wrong with me?

The next day, a contractor arrives to start working on Daddy’s upstairs room.  He has the whole second floor and is converting it into one huge bedroom with a walk-in closet.  We are never to go up there.  Ever.

I watch the contractor and his helpers when I get off school.  I am a bit wary, as they are men, but most are older than even Daddy, and that is a relief.
I’m only truly edgy around one of the helpers who is in his late teens, though I’m not sure why.  When I try to think about it, I hit a brick wall in my head.  Angry whispers tell me to leave well-enough alone.

The lead contractor, Terry, goes out of his way to talk to me, in a uncle/grandfatherly sort of way.  I finally get comfortable enough to stop just sitting silently on the porch or in the living room and go about my business.

Which includes struggling to ride that bike.  I haven’t given up.  I know it has to be accomplished at some point.

Terry comes out to get something out of his truck one afternoon a couple days later and sees me.  He stops and tilts his head at me, calculating something.  I freeze in embarrassment, both for my age (too old to not know how to ride a two-wheeler), and that I’m still not able to smoothly handle it.  He lets out a soft chuckle.

“Well now, no wonder you’re having trouble. Your tires are almost flat.”  He goes to his truck purposefully and pulls out a black box with a wand and hose attached.  He motions to me.  “Come here, I’ll pump ’em up for you.”

I glance down at the white tires of my femininely pink and purple bike.  I study it for a moment, but can’t determine how he’d come to that conclusion.  However, I slide off the seat and bring it over to him.

He fits the wand into a part of the tire and flips a switch on the box.  There is a roaring noise and I jump.  He glances at me.
“It’s okay, just the noise the air pump makes.  Loud, ain’t it?”  He laughs, then looks back at the tire and pulls out the wand, “They aren’t all the way flat, just enough to hinder you.”

“I-I-I know I’m sort of old to be…” I trail off nervously.  He gives me a soft smile.

“I learned late too. Just didn’t have a reason to ride a bike for a long time. Better late than never.”  He fits the wand into the back tire for a brief minute, and then pulls it out and pushes the handles of the bike towards me.  “There ya go.  Should be a lot easier now.  Go ahead.”  He stands and waits, watching.  I hesitate.  I don’t like being watched.  But he had nicely filled the tires and he wasn’t judging me for being in middle school without having learned to ride two-wheeler.

I clamber onto the seat, settle myself for a moment, then push the pedals firmly.

The bike flies smoothly forward, perfectly balanced and I don’t wobble a bit.  A grin slips onto my face as I make multiple loops around the driveway.  Terry cheers.

It’s amazing how a little air in the tires makes all the difference.

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