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Thursday, April 2, 2015

I Ride My New Bike

I had finally learned to ride a bike. And now, my mother was coaching me on taking various turns on the bike. This was a white and purple bicycle, a beautiful girls' bike, which had been a surprise present from my parents.

I remembered how my parents had gotten me out of bed one Saturday with the promise of a surprise downstairs. I'd been excited and happy – until I saw what the surprise was. The thought that hit me with the devastation of fear was: “Oh, no. Now I'll HAVE to learn to ride a bike.” Up until then, the only bike I'd had to practice on was a yard sale find. But this was a new, shiny bike, and I guessed it was expensive. I thought, “Oh, no. Not this. I don't want to learn to ride a bike. It's too hard.”

Mama helped me and helped me, first on the old and plain bike, then on the new white and purple bike. But I didn't like practicing. It was really not fun. I wanted so much to run inside all the way up the stairs to my third-floor bedroom and play with paper dolls and stickers instead. That was what I thought was fun. I could not understand why other kids liked riding bikes.

But it was no use saying that I just didn't want to. Every kid had to learn to ride a bike. It was a rule. Plus, I was already eight years old and I didn't want to ever have to tell another kid that I couldn't ride a bike if someone asked. I wouldn't tell a lie, but it would be so embarrassing to have to say I couldn't.

Of course, “knowing how” and “being able to” weren't exactly the same. I had “known how” to ride a bike for several years. To ride a bike, you had to sit on the seat and hold the handlebars and then push the pedals with your feet. But why wasn't it easy for me? Why?

And then one day – finally – it was easy. This time, Papa was helping. He was holding the back of the bicycle seat for me while I pedaled, and he was running along beside me. All at once, I looked around and spied Papa back behind me, smiling and panting to keep up. But he wasn't keeping up!

I thought, “I'm riding a bike. I have two choices. I can get scared and think I can't do it and quit and fall off. Or I can believe that I really am riding the bike and that I can do it now and keep going.” I kept going.

That day, Papa and I had big news to tell Mama when we got home! “And Mama,” I told her, “you were really right that if I go faster it's easier to balance and stay on the bike! I didn't believe you at all, but that's just how it is. It doesn't make sense, but it works!”

Later that week, I was practicing my new moves out in the back parking lot, which was spacious and quiet. Mama called out, “Now do a figure eight!”

So I did a figure eight, and fell off of my bike, and went splat on the pavement. I was pretty shook up, but not actually hurt. I staggered to my feet, and yanked the bicycle by its handlebars. The handlebars were twisted around backwards, but I didn't care.

I didn’t care, because my mother was laughing at me. I had never known I could feel this angry at anybody. I had never felt this angry at my mother in my whole life. I stubbornly pushed the bike up to the grass, dropped it, and strode away from that accursed bike and into the house. I climbed all the stairs to my third-floor bedroom, and hid in my “bed-chamber” - which was the corner behind my bed’s headrest.

Usually, I went to my bed-chamber to read or cut out paper dolls. I had a lamp and a blanket there. But other times, I also went there to be alone and to cry. This time, the tears weren’t coming, but the anger was still intense. Why does every kid have to learn to ride a bike anyway? I’d been happier before I ever sat on a bicycle seat.

And now, Mama was coming and knocking on my bedroom door.

I did not say, “Come in,” but Mama came in anyway.

“Sharon Rose? I’m sorry I laughed at you, sweetheart. I was just so relieved that you weren’t actually hurt.”

I sniffed. “Are you sorry you told me to do a figure eight when it was too hard for me?” I asked.

“Yes, I am,” replied my mother. “I am so proud of how brave you are to keep trying at something that is hard for you. You know, your schoolwork has always been easy for you, and I really think it’s important for you to try activities that are difficult at times. Does that make sense to you?”

“Like playing the piano, which is also hard for me?” I asked.

“Yes. I want you to keep taking piano lessons and keep practicing hard, because I believe it’s good for you, and so does your Papa.”

“Okay,” I said with a long, drawn-out sigh. "I guess I could learn to like bicycles someday. At least, I won’t give up after one spill, but I still don’t like riding bikes like the other kids do.”

“I love you, Sharon Rose,” said her mama. “Do you forgive me for laughing at you?”

“Yes, of course. But it really did hurt my feelings.”

“I know. Now let’s go down to the kitchen and get some ice cream sandwiches out of the freezer. Falling off bikes might make you work up an appetite, right?”

“You know, this time, I think you are right,” I answered.


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