by Maria Schulz
I like my bicycle
Remember the freedom and fun you had when you were a kid and you rode your bicycle?
I learned how to ride when I was three years old. My brothers (mostly worldly-wise and a few years older than me) decided it was time to teach me. So, they put me on top of the only bike we owned, which was clearly too big for me, and pushed me down the little hill that led to the alley behind our house.
I managed to stay upright by the grace of God (Yes! A miracle!), but began to panic as I reached the end of the alleyway. There was my brother Tony, waiting to catch me…but since I didn’t know how to use the brakes, I sailed right past him. One big crash and lots of tears later, I was officially a bike rider. My brothers congratulated me and I suddenly felt a whole lot better.
Still worth it
However, since there were only a couple of bikes in our family (there were a lot of us and no money), we had to share. So my actual bike-riding days were few and far between. As the 6th of 7 children, it was rarely, if ever, my turn.
I borrowed and begged as often as I could, and eventually, another miracle befell me. My friend’s mom felt sorry for me and gave me an old blue bike of theirs. I loved it! I rode it everywhere! I didn’t even mind that it was really meant for someone twice my age and three times my size. I could barely reach the pedals, but who cared? It was mine! How lucky was I?
My brother, Joey, eventually talked me into giving the bike to him for his paper route. In return, he wrangled a pretty lavender bike, with a banana seat with multicolored daisies on top, from one of his paper route customers. He put on a matching basket (I loved those multicolored daisies) and it was official. I had a bike of my own that I could actually ride without crashing, and it was pretty. I didn’t have to share it with my brothers because what boy wanted to ride a pretty bicycle? Life was good.
I rode that bike everywhere. Off we went to CYO bowling on Wednesdays; to sleepovers on Friday nights; to babysitting gigs; to King’s Deli on Bell Blvd. or C-Town on 48th Avenue. But I think my favorite place of all was my neighbor’s house.
Mrs. Murray was about the same age as my grandmothers, but you probably couldn’t find someone less like my family if you tried. She was a former Midwesterner who grew up on a farm. She didn’t have an Italian, Puerto Rican, or New York accent, was tall, and had beautiful white hair and piercing blue eyes. Her skin was almost translucent. She was like milk, whereas my grandmothers were more like chocolate milk. Both good for you, but definitely different.
Milk and cookies go great together
I would ride my bike to her house most days of the week in the summer, stopping by for “just a minute.” Two hours later, when I was finishing up my lemonade and ladyfingers, we’d say goodbye and off I’d go again, racing away on my little purple bike.
I think I can ride today
The seasons didn’t stop me. Whether it was 100 degrees or 1 degree, I was out there riding. Mrs. Murray used to wave to me from her window as I dashed by, and told me later that she was laughing whenever she saw “that little parka-hooded speed demon whizzing by.”
Such a troublemaker
My only kryptonite, bike wise, was snow. Even ice only kind of slowed me down, but then again, my brakes never really worked. The result was that ice didn’t scare me the way it should’ve.
Let’s go bike riding next
My love affair with my bike continued even after I had kids. I loved riding through the streets with my girls, racing to the park. We would reach our destination, then stop for a bit to swing, slide, and climb, until…it was time to jump back on the bikes and race off to the next park, wherever that might be. We would crash, and bleed, and cry a little (that was mostly me), but a little bandage and a kiss later, and we were off to new adventures.
Still worth it
I didn’t pay much attention to the toll that all that racing, sliding, crashing, and falling was having on me until my body started to rebel. “Enough” it seemed to say. It blamed my bike for everything. Soon, my bicycle and I fell out of love. I saw my orthopedist more and rode my bicycle less.
Are you a vampire?
Suddenly, I abandoned my beloved bicycle for the other forms of exercise. The elliptical sang its siren song, and I was entranced…for a while. Don’t get me wrong. The elliptical (let’s call him Edward, as in Cullen…you know, the vampire?) was quite a looker. Big, impressive, and physically beautiful to behold, Edward offered his own particular charms to creaky old me.
Not the gym again
But the magic didn’t last. I began to feel restless with Edward. My relationship with him felt static. We were going nowhere! It was always the same: the hum of the motor, the harsh, bright lights, the constant flow of sweaty people around us, the Kardashians on the TV mounted overhead. It wasn’t him, it was me. I needed more.
So, I wiped the cobwebs off my bicycle and we went out together again. We started slowly, because we hadn’t been together in such a long time. I didn’t know if I could trust my bike not to hurt me. But almost immediately, it was just like old times. The sun warmed me from my head to my toes, the birds sang in unison, and there was not a Kardashian in sight. My bike and I are an item again.
As I rode around my neighborhood and raced my husband down leafy local trails, the strains of an old Etta James song rang in my head. “At last…my love has come along. My lonely days are over. And life is like a song.”
Sun-kissed skin, windswept hair, legs that feel strong and steady, and hands held triumphantly off the handlebars. This is true love. If only Mrs. Murray could see me now.
Mrs. Murray never charged…and she even threw in cookies
It’s been a long time since I sat in Mrs. Murray’s sun-dappled breakfast room or on her neat, flower-decked patio, sipping lemonade and chomping on ladyfingers. It was the perfect ending to a long day of zipping around the ‘hood on my bicycle. Lemonade and ladyfingers always take me right back to that perfect place.
So, what’s the one thing you used to do that you’d like to do again? Do you love your bike? Which treat is your post workout favorite? Please leave a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!