Saturday, December 30, 2006
I learned to ride a bike when I was seven. My parents gave me a small, beaten boy's bike and I rode like the wind on the sidewalks of our sleepy desert town. I got another bike when I was twelve after we moved to the Midwest. It was bigger, a girl's bike, also old, but I loved it! My sister and I rode the streets of suburbia long after dusk on summer nights. Leaving childhood behind, we zipped around with excitement at our newfound freedom. My mother would sometimes ride with us, but only in the dark. She thought the neighbors would think she was silly. This bike went into semi-retirement during my high school years when it wasn't cool to ride a bike. But I brought it to my first apartment, and having no car, rode it miles back and forth to work through dark and quiet neighborhoods. I pedaled hard and traveled far. I was free, living on my own.
When my boys were school-age with bikes of their own, I found another used bike at a yard sale for $5. It was big and clunky and red. No handbreaks, no speeds. Sturdy. We lived in an area perfect for biking and the boys and I rode many evenings after dinner. Unlike my mother, I didn't worry about the neighbors. But as the boys got a little older, they were embarrassed to be seen with me on my old red bike and I often rode alone with my thoughts, escaping from unfulfilled dreams. I don't know whatever happened to that bike, but I've thought of it many times through the years, looking for one similar and never finding it. At the Jersey shore every year I admire the basic, no-frill bikes and wait for the day we will rent them instead of the surreys.
This Christmas, Fred and I agreed on no gifts for each other, but he didn't follow through on his promise. He told me he ordered me "a little something for your health." No big deal. I didn't give it much thought. But then he said he needed to pick it up--in the van. What in the world? Of course, you guessed it, since I'm writing about bikes, but I had no idea. I heard the door chime announcing he was home. The girls ran to the basement as he came in and I heard their delighted squeals. Still confused I went downstairs. I admit, I shrieked with joy too! Such a childish gift for this old woman! A beautiful, brand-new, girlie-pink bike! It is shiny and flashy, with a wide white, padded seat and a thick frame. The handlebars are set far apart, safe and solid, and there are no fancy, shifting gears. Written on the frame is "Beach Cruzer" and "Classic." It has my name written all over it. My first new bike! What a dear husband who bought it for me.
It is night but I take it out to the driveway for a spin. Biking is impossible on our steep hill, but I couldn't resist crossing the street and trying it out in the church parking lot. Wow! My bike is like an old, familiar friend. The cold air whips past my ears and I still ride like the wind. But this time I'm not running away or breaking free from anything. I'm traveling eagerly, expectantly, into the new year. Oh, the adventures we will have!
I recently read Psalm 103 again, the passage my son Dominic read at our wedding. It was so fitting then, as it is now. "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's." Vs. 2-5.