“Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race.” – H.G. Wells
I attended a training class on Saturday where the facilitator asked us as we introduced ourselves to relate our favorite childhood memory. I’ve got a lot of great childhood memories but the one that came immediately to mind was riding my bicycle, all of the time, especially on the trail in the woods near my house.
Being on a bicycle as a kid was freedom. It was the first step of independence. I had a bright metallic green Schwinn Stingray, white banana seat, 2 speeds worked with the pedals, one hand brake (to help graduate you to a full hand brake ten speed someday, which by the way, cost me a front tooth…another story for another day)
There was a Bell Telephone service road that ran a mile or so into the woods at the end of a dead end street in my neighborhood. I spent much of my childhood in those woods. The old telephone poles and lines had been taken down so the road wasn’t used anymore, except by me an all of the kids in the neighborhood.
We’d hop on our bikes and hit the trail in the woods, flying as fast as we could until we got to the end of the trail and skidded our bikes to a stop. We made camps, tree houses, hiked down to the creek to look for crawdads and salamanders and rocks with shells impressed into them from another age. It was the best of times.
I live close to my old neighborhood so I have been back there often. When I got home from the training class on Saturday afternoon, I decided to hop on my bicycle, (not the metallic green Stingray, it's been long gone…sigh!) and take a ride back there. Reliving those memories earlier in the day caused me to look at the neighborhood again with my 10 year old eyes. As I rolled past the houses on my old street, I started remembering the names of the families who used to live there, the kids I grew up with. The houses all still look the same. Well kept, some with additions, but still… the same. (it seemed so much...bigger…at 10 year old)
But the woods are gone now. Not all of them but much of what was our sacred place is now sacred space of another kind. A cemetery bought the property for more burial ground. And so our enclave of trees and our bicycle trail of freedom is now a grassy plain with granite headstones dotting the ground, a trail of freedom of another kind.
As I was riding back out of the street on my way home, a small dog started barking and came after me. The owner called him back and I had to smile. I explained to the owner, it was ok. "I grew up on this street and two houses up from yours, a beagle named Ringo used to chase us every day." Even though were always too fast for the crazy dog to actually bite us, more often than not he would lie in wait for the chase and scare the crap out of us. I hated Ringo….but I love the memory!
“And now the fields are all four lanes,
and the moon’s not just a name.
Are you more amazed at how things change
Or how they stay the same…”
- Cheryl Wheeler (75 Septembers)