Before I start this story I think it's important to note that once upon a time, many years ago, my body forgot a few things, like how to hold a pen, or stand without assistance, and eventually for a short, terrifying time how to walk at all.
And when it slowly carefully relearned all the really obvious things which it had forgotten, it took the better part of two years to find all the little things that the brain had jettisoned or reconfigured in order to get things like Mobility back in the picture.
It's part of this story, "What I am Doing On My Summer Vacation."
I made choices, I went to the beach and negotiated a truce, and I have relearned how to ride a bike.
Which is not as simple as it should be.
And now I have a bike of my very own.
It was an adventure.
The Most Adventurous Red approves.
It started because of The Boy, who needed a bike ( because Boys need Bikes) went to the store with my Dearest Friend to repair his bike, (because Dearest Friends need Bikes too). I figured since my Dearest Friend's bike is unique and collapsable that the people who could service it would be people I could trust to advise me on the proper bicycle for the Boy. It would need to work in our environment by the House but it would also need to be able to do well here, by the beach in the far Northeast, where we punctuate our lives.
It did not take us long, the man who helped us loves bikes and people and speaks in sounds my ear associates with childhood. The bikes are just as fancy as my overly competitive, yuppified, sports minded area, but they are presented plainly, no fancy words, no branding, no "exclusive 10 point measuring systems". I was happier there. I trusted this person. The Boy doesn't ask for much so I tend to be careful when he does.
He asked if we could get the bike so that he could use it here. After some thought, I agreed. The Boy and His Bike were meant to be, matched by the Massachusetts Bike Man. It only took two bikes before we found the Right One.
The Boy brought His Girl with him on this trip. A new and possibly dangerous thing to do, and we learned that His Girl did not ride. Hmmn, this is not ideal - Girls also need Bikes.
Bikes are independence where we are, because the buses are disjointed inefficient money soaks that add obstacles rather than opportunities. Everyone, besides me, offered to teach her.
I could not- I was fairly sure I no longer knew how to ride a bike. But I encouraged her, and on hearing her concerns and the phantoms she threw up offered to try to ride a bike with her. She thought that seeing a grown up who could not ride easily try to relearn might help.
The other adults travelling with me and the Massachusetts Bike Man all reassured me that if I used to ride, I will remember no matter how many decades, but only my Dearest Friend was there when my body had forgotten, and some of the times over the years when I had to fight to keep what I had relearned. Some things are not the same after that. There was no guarantee for me.
When we got out of the car to buy his bike, I saw it. I walked around it. I took pictures of it. But I didn't think I would do anything about it.
It reminded me of Burning Man, of studying religious texts, of art school, of my first bike, of time travel. It reminded me of hope. The kind of hope where you look at something in the window and hope that someday you'll be rich/talented/old/good enough to be able to own it.
I put it on the mental shelf. There were no guarantees, I am too old to pine at windows and even if I were not, I am too realistic to hope without some basis in reality.
Then on the very first day The Boy's Bike had an epic failure of tubing and heat and needed to go back to the bike shop, which with great metaphoric symbolism is called "YesterYear".
There is a six month service plan. His Girl went with us for the repair.
I've never seen a repair done so fast without a planned pit crew. They wheeled it in and the owner called out "This just rolled out this morning - let's get it back out NOW!"
It was like magic. My favorite kind, where the magic is because of extreme competence. God, I love it when that happens.
I did show His Girl the Very Pretty Bicycle. I will love her forever because when she saw it she said, "It looks like it was made for you!"
That is not what most people who know me would think.
Lined up with all the other bikes, it called out to me full of things past and present and future. The others were talking with the crew up by the repair, and we asked the Massachusetts Bike Man if I could sit on it. It was our third visit to his shop. He pulled it out of the line up for me and I sat to see what would happen when I did.
I was disoriented.
It was frightening.
The edges of the parts of my brain that had been affected by the Great Forgetting fluttered frantically trying to make sure that the simple act of supporting a bike while sitting on it did not cause me and the bike to go tumbling down in the very public lot.
I told the Boy's Girl the truth, that I was shaky and having trouble keeping my balance, and I thanked the MBM and told him that I would practice riding back by the beach before I tried to ride around the parking lot. The one thing I was sure of is that I did not remember.
She told me she would learn if I would, because maybe then I would get that bike. I told her that I probably wouldn't be getting the bicycle, but it wasn't OK for me to feel the edges of Forgetting and just leave them there. Because if I leave it alone, the whole abyss lies under it and I won't know how deep it is. That is unacceptable. I cannot live like that.
I will not go gently.
So we would start from the beginning, together, me and the Boy's Girl.
We went back to the shipwright's house and had the first lesson.
First there were the parade of bikes to be tried. The Shipwright's House, like all the houses here collects bicycles. Tall ones, short ones, ancient ones, merely old ones and The Boy's Bike. The Boy and I are the same height now. We're both pretty tall with long legs, and his was the only one that fit. His bike is much more bike than I should be using. Oh well, nothing for that now. We found one for her.
At my insistance, we took our practice starts on the grass. My Perfectly Ordinary Husband demonstrated "push off" and then handed it to me and said "Ok - show me what you've got".
I admit, I'm not sure I would have tried going anywhere on my son's bike if it weren't for His Girl and the Very Pretty Bicycle. But I did try.
My son has a very nice bike. Much to my surprise, while all of the Forgetting Edges hovered around my balance center and my lungs, the act of pushing off helped me to find a new center, and I rode around the bush and remembered how to use a hand brake to stop.
It was only a little like remembering and nothing at all like learning. It was more like discovering. I discovered how I could ride a bike, even with the abyss underneath.
The Boy's Girl learned to ride the same day, within the hour.
I had forgotten how to breathe, but that happens a lot lately. I was able to use words and feelings and physical actions that helped The Boy's Girl be willing to take risks too. That and the inspiration of my shaky, wobbly, triumphant trip to and from the tennis courts, with occasional flashes of breathing.
I could ride a bike and not pass out. This was even bigger than riding in the first place!
My body, my brain and I have not all been on the same page for some time. We need a mediator, we need to readjust. We need to feed each other again and work towards something instead of trying to maintain equilibrium. We need measured successes, but with milestones we made ourselves.
We needed a bicycle. It's bigger on the inside than the out. I promise.
On the fourth trip, after the research, and the soul searching, and the permission to be selfish (I gave it to myself) I went back to the MBM and told him that I was going to get a bike, it didn't have to be the one I loved but it did have to be right. I trusted him. I would try what he thought was best for me and where I would be riding.
It ended up that the right bike was indeed the one I loved.
It's call the OM.
It makes me want to leave the porch. It makes me wonder if I'm good enough to ride on a wet road.
(No, not yet).
When the weather was clear I stopped the comfortable easy thing I was doing and took it out of the garage myself and went as far as I could.
I am learning.
I am willing to move.
I am learning to use a coaster break on a downhill slope.
I have learned how to apply heat to the bruises on the back of my left calf until I get it right.
I am finding a pace where I can ride and breathe and still enjoy movement and air and environment.
I have a plan for when my bike goes home to practice around my neighborhood.
I will have the prettiest bike on my block, confusing the hell out of the people who see me leave for work each day in my black suits.
If I get good enough, I can ride my bike to work wearing my black suits, and my dark sunglasses, carrying my technology in a shock proof case.
The check at the security gate should be fun.
I can ride a bike.
Take that Universe, I got something new back, even at this late date.
Bet you didn't see that coming.
(I certainly didn't).
But you're welcome to come along with us for the ride.It will be an adventure.