The street where we lived when I was growing up was a main thoroughfare with a lot of traffic, and there was no sidewalk.
We had an alley in the back, but it wasn’t paved and the trash trucks made huge ruts in the dirt when they came to pick up trash. Then it would rain and the ruts became this marsh that made a great place to find tadpoles.
But it was a horrible place to ride a bicycle.
As a result, I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was much older.
It was a source of great embarrassment that my bike still had training wheels on it when I was in the second grade.
I’ll never forget the day after the school fair. One of the girls in my class had invited me over to her house to play after school. She wanted to ride bikes in her driveway and I told her I didn’t know how. I also made the mistake of telling her about those training wheels.
While I was talking she got out a shoebox and pulled out this four inch long green lizard and proceeded to tie a thin hair ribbon around his neck. I watched from a distance as she let that lizard crawl up her hand and arm.
“If you don’t kiss my lizard, I’ll tell everybody in our class that you can’t ride a bike,” she said, laughing. Then she made a mad dash toward me holding the lizard out in front of her.
I probably moved faster in that moment than I have at any other time in my life.
And I didn’t care what she told those kids. I wasn’t about to kiss a lizard.
When I was eleven I finally learned to ride a bike. My aunt had been running behind me up and down their long driveway, clear out to the cattle guard and back, holding on to the back of the bicycle. And then all of a sudden while I was still peddling, I realized she wasn’t there any more.
I was making it go all by myself and I won’t ever forget that feeling.
Like something important had happened. A rite of passage.
That connected me to all the other kids, in a way I wasn’t connected before.
Riding a bike isn’t a big deal.
But knowing that you can is.