Thursday, December 5, 2013

Once Upon a Bicycle

I remember the first time I rode a bicycle...or rather the first time I tried to learn how to ride a bicycle. I was in grade school and perhaps 12 years old. There was one bicycle in the family, given to us by our sponsor when we immigrated to the United States.

The bike was matte yellow, like an egg yolk. A cruiser with a matching square wire basket in the front.  And even though it was the family's bicycle, my older sister by two years rode it more than any of us six siblings.  It was an unspoken agreement that the bike was actually hers.

My sister would pedal us to the grocery store which was about a mile away from the apartment where we lived. Since I did not yet know how to ride a bike I would sit on the seat and she would stand the whole time, pumping the pedals. One time I made the mistake of wearing this powder blue check skirt like Dorothy's in the Wizard of Oz and on the way home from the grocery store it weaved itself between the spokes of the bicycle until we rolled to a halt. There I was standing off on the side of the road, in my underwear and t-shirt. Fortunately the house we happened to stop in front of was my classmate's. Her mother came to the rescue and cut up one of the few skirts I had to free it from the bike's hub and spokes. Then my classmate gave me a pair of shorts to wear for the remainder of my trip home with my sister. I was lucky that my skirt was the only casualty that day. Losing it was far better than if both of us had crashed into the asphalt from its entanglement.

Me and my skirt (far left) and my older sister (far right)
The day my sister taught me how to ride that yellow bike, we started on a large grass courtyard at the center of our apartment community. There were some boys socializing nearby that apparently my sister had a crush on. She held the saddle steady so that I could get on the bike and pedal. And I pedaled us down a small grassy area--right into a tree. My sister had let go after I started to lose control. Either there was nothing she could've done to prevent me from the collision or seeing the inevitable, she let go because she didn't want to be associated with me for fear of embarrassment. Probably a bit of both.

As I rolled down the hill on that yellow bike and stuck in the saddle, I froze in terror like a deer in a headlight and could only watch as the tree came towards me. What do you mean steer, dear sister?! I was only concerned with keeping my balance and all common sense telling me to turn the handlebars had left me. So I biked right into the tree. Squarely. I heard the sound of the metal fenders, front tire, and basket rattling as it crashed against the tree trunk. And the subsequent laughter that erupted from my sister as she came to check up on me. She was laughing so hard she had to cross her legs to control herself. I guess my mishap must have been a hilarious sight to see (I chuckle now thinking about it). Amazingly I was okay. I didn't fly off or over the handlebars but the tree had definitely put a stop to my bicycle riding lesson that day.

I don't remember what happened to that bike. Perhaps the crash bent the fenders enough that it wasn't rideable or the same after that. I also don't remember ever riding a bicycle again as a young adult or how I eventually learned how to ride one. It was not until years later as an adult and married woman, when I got my first bike - a mountain bike, that I rode again.


Chante said...

Oh, THANK GOD you did NOT remember the incident in Sunnyside.I tried to get on the stupid bike for the first time and when I did, the bike was uncontrollable and couldn't get it to stop! It didn't help that I was too short to reach the pedals. In the end I crash landed and my poor crotch got hurt pretty damn bad. You bitches stood back and laughed so hard. Well, looking back now - it was funny!

Unknown said...

Wow, we had that bike since Sunnyside?!

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