Perhaps this faded photograph of me sporting pigtails and my cat-eye glasses, circa late 60s, would have been more fitting for “Way, Way Back Wednesday”, “Throwback Thursday” or “Flashback Friday”, but I decided to dig it out and use it for this post since bicycles were on my mind today.
My morning trip to Council Point Park was reminiscent of my Sunday stroll which told of encounters with an older gentleman and a young mom with kids, only today it was the reverse, and I merely watched and never spoke to any of those involved.
I saw the boy and his dad first, then the elderly man, both on the Park path. The little boy had a mid-sized bike, which looked to be his first two-wheeler sans training wheels. He had a slight build and was wearing a huge, yellow helmet that kind of overwhelmed the rest of him. In fact, as skinny as he was, it made him look like some type of alien. He was pedaling his bike, not very confidently, and a young man was right behind him, holding on for dear life. There was trepidation on the little boy’s part as the front wheel wobbled back and forth a little bit, and he kept looking over his shoulder asking “are you there Dad?” and “yes, son – I am here” was the response each time. “Okay” … he continued wobbling along, front wheel wiggling first to the left, then to the right, but he didn’t tip over, and his father dutifully kept bringing up the rear, his big palm plastered on the back of the bike seat.
I watched the interplay from my side of the perimeter path loop as the boy suddenly seemed to gain confidence and he got that front wheel straightened out. Suddenly, it was like everything just meshed and he started pedaling faster. Soon Dad was hard pressed to keep his hand on the seat and he was huffing and puffing to keep up with his son. A wide patch of perspiration started staining Dad’s gray t-shirt. Then suddenly, he let go of the bike, and I wondered if he could no longer keep up, or, perhaps he decided it was just time to let him go. The little boy pedaled fast and furiously, rolling along on the perimeter path while his dad just stood in place on the track, a big grin on his face. Then, Dad figured everything was going well, so he loped across the grassy area, to catch up with his son on the other side. The little boy, from what I could see of his face, since the helmet took up most of the expanse of it, was all smiles too. I wanted to salute this dad because I remember all too well, my attempts to learn how to ride a two-wheeler with a father who had no patience, and in a cul-de-sac where the street was just a gravel road. There were no helmets in those days and I had a brand-new, full-size bike. I was terrified of falling. My father gave me a few lessons on how to keep the bike upright, then slipped behind the bike and suggested I take off. I begged him not to turn me loose, but he did. I fell down and scraped my leg and whined a bit, so we never went out again. I took my new bike to my friend’s house where her dad patiently circled ‘round and ‘round the backyard on the grass, his hand on the bike seat, until I was comfortable enough to ride on my own. One day this little boy will remember the first day he had wheels and could go anywhere and who helped take him there.
By contrast, when I reached the other side, I saw an elderly man walking the perimeter path, while wheeling his bicycle . I don’t know if he was afraid to tether it to a stand in case it was stolen, or perhaps he needed the reassurance of that bike … maybe in lieu of a walker or a cane. But he was trudging slowly, gripping onto a very old-style, turquoise-colored bicycle. It made me kind of wistful to see him, just sadly walking and rolling his bike along, right on the heels of the youngster who was about to learn the freedom that owning a bicycle brings.
Four miles of foot power today for me and still another glimpse into my past for you ….