Standing at the end of the alley, I watched my brother cruise carelessly by, arms outstretched, face to the sun. Pedal, pedal, pedal, then feet in the air, resting his elbows on the handlebars. A grinning show off. His red bike a blur. Accelerating. My bike riding soon-to-be tutor whistling past. The final flourish, a back pedal braking skid on gravel, and a high swooping two-legged dismount.
Me. My turn. I want to do that now. Now. Exactly like that.
First mistake. He rode a boy bike. With a bar from the seat to the handlebars. He was a boy. I was not.
Second mistake. He was a foot taller than me. His feet touched the ground when he came to a stop. My feet barely reached the pedals, let alone the solid ground beneath them.
Third mistake. Letting him hold the handlebars, run along beside and start the launch sequence with a hefty shove.
Yes. I was going fast. Yes. My feet were in the air.
Yes. I could feel the air rushing by.
No. My face was not to the sun.
My eyes were on the pedals, spinning hopelessly in mid-air.
Yes. I came to a stop. Suddenly. Not of my own choosing.
I ran into a telephone pole.
Training wheels, he whispered in my ear,
as he picked me up off the concrete.
You need training wheels. Sorry.
Here the story begins. I didn't have training wheels. I didn't have a bike. If I was to ride, I would have to get back on the too big, big boy bike. Again and again. I would have to fall down and get back up. I would learn how to prop the bike up against the steps, hop on the seat, and wobble my way forward. I would stand up as tall as I could stretch, between the seat and the handlebars, up over the bar.
I learned how to ride a bike. The hard way. The only way.
Because I wanted to ride, more than I cared about falling.
Taking care of business. As easy as falling off a bicycle.
The title of one of my first Garden Pages.
An older woman whirled around my artwork, clapping her hands and singing, "I want to make you famous." "Introduce you to the world." She stopped whirling. Paused and read to herself, her lips moving wordlessly. When she finished, she pointed to herself and said, "That's me". Later, a few weeks later, her note to me began...
"I did not expect that I could have anything for myself for quite awhile, but I was hoping that sometime I could purchase one. I told my family about you. I thought they would appreciate your work."
They did. Her children did. One of them, her oldest son, found me the following weekend. We chatted awhile, then I let him wander and read. Read and wander. Like his mother before him, he stopped. In front of the same piece. When he finished reading, he pointed to the picture and said, "That's her. That's my Mom."
His mother continued in her note, "My oldest son looked at all the pictures and when he saw this one he said he thought that 'this is Mom'. I love it that that's what he thought when he read this one especially."
"Anyway", she wrote, " it is now hanging in my family room where everyone can see it and think about the truth and wisdom of the writing. This really is how I tried to raise my children and I try to instill this in my children for raising their children. Thank you for all the beautiful work you do."
All of her children pitched in and gave the picture as a birthday gift.
I wrote this piece, with my own children in heart and mind,
To know that it touched the hearts and lives of others, feels exactly the way it did when I rode on the too big, big boy bike, with my arms outstretched and my face to the sun.
Don't ever be afraid to fall. Afraid to fail.
Children are our miracles.
Giggle with them.
Go barefoot with them.
Make memories with them.
Life will take care of itself.
Take care of each other.