While I was enrolled in Town Creek Elementary School, my parents decided to sell our house and move to a new location that would change my school district. I was destined to polish off my early education at Park Hall Elementary, but once my childhood home sold we moved into a rental house that was basically across the street from Town Creek.
The new house had to be built, you see, and I had been granted a one-year reprieve to attend Town Creek Elementary. As a bonus, our rental house was right across the street from my best friend, Katie.
As I remember it, Katie’s mom thought it was atrocious that I didn’t know to ride a bicycle — I must’ve been in first grade. She made it her personal tasking to teach me how, right there in the street between our two houses.
Was she too pushy? Was I just hell-bent on being contrary and not learning how? Did I not understand the freedom that came with having wheels? Or was I too scared to go fast enough away from her to stay upright?
I don’t remember.
But I must not have felt like it was so awful to be limited to two feet. My mom never learned how to ride a bike, and it was probably better for my sister and I that she never tried to push us into graduating from tricycles and the Sit ‘N Spin.
(Not to mention, if my least favorite sports-moment on that street was learning how to ride a bike, my absolute favorite sports-moment was when it snowed and Dad threw a ball, causing the dog to pull us down the street in a sled while we hung on for dear life!)
I started second grade in a different school district. Our new house was isolated on five wooded acres and I no longer had neighbors that I could see or friends within walking distance. My sister and I played with dogs and Barbies, baby ducks and box turtles, monster trucks and dirt.
When I got to middle school I started to really feel the isolation as my social circles widened. I began to realize that I didn’t have certain essential kid-skills that most of my friends had learned growing up, such as knowing how to ride a bike.
I begged my parents, and one afternoon I was given a garage sale find — (I think it cost $50) — a standard bike with skinny tires. At home, the only teacher I had was Dad.
Dad was the kind of guy who threw puppies into the water to teach them how to swim.
(Disclaimer: No puppies ever drowned. In fact, they all learned to swim.)
That’s basically how I learned how to ride a bike, only instead of water just substitute the sloping hill on the side of our house.
All I remember about my first lesson is careening down the side yard, afraid to put on the brakes because I might fall over. Logic would have told me to turn the wheel and veer into the backyard, but I ended up colliding with the broad-side of the chain-link dog kennel at the bottom of the hill and falling down anyway.
Dad came running to help me up, but he couldn’t stop the laughter from punctuating his rescue mission. I guess his perspective was a little different from mine, because I was not amused.
Eventually I learned how to pedal and keep the bike upright on the bumpy terrain of our weed-clotted yard… and it may have taken me a while but I braved that hill again (and successfully avoided the kennel).
Dad? Thanks for teaching me to get back in the saddle and not accept defeat from inanimate objects.
But you should know… me crashing into that dog kennel?! So not funny.