We’ve been reminiscing a little about summertime as children. All that free time to enjoy!
Summer meant riding my bicycle. I loved the freedom. Even though my father was strict and persnickety about – well- everything, I was free to roam and free to ride. That little piece of information might seem irrelevant to you but it tells me a lot about that time in history. We were pretty safe. We knew our neighbors and even those who lived blocks away were considered neighbors because they were likely classmates, or at least went to the same school. As long as I was home for lunch and dinner and by dark, I was ok. That is freedom. Can you imagine letting your kids run free for so long, not knowing exactly where they are, who they’re with and what they’re doing? Nope. Neither can I.
I remember the Christmas I received my bicycle. It was 24″, a big one. I was probably 8 years old. (Not like kids these days, riding two-wheelers at 5 years old.) My father and I went into the backyard that afternoon to learn to ride it- not wasting any time. I guess I really wanted to ride!
The backyard was deep. Kind of divided in half (or a third/two-thirds). The close to the house part of the yard had a paved sidewalk and ended at the far part of the yard. After instruction, my father would steady me as I peddled along the sidewalk, hoping I wouldn’t fall into the bushes. At the end of the sidewalk, after a few times of running into the far backyard with me, he’d let go. At first, of course, I wobbled and crashed. Falling on the grass, which, even in the cold of winter, really wasn’t too terrible. I got up and we’d walk back to the bottom of the porch steps and try again. Needless to say, after awhile, I could ride on my own without crashing into either the bushes or the cold grass.
That next summer, I rode my bike all around the yard- front, near-back, far-back, even the narrow side yard. I rode my bike on the sidewalk in front of our house. Then down Thomas Street and finally all the way to school.
One hot summer, I was maybe 10 or 11, as I rode my bike past the house of a classmate, he came out and stopped me. Stood in front of me so I couldn’t move on. He was the class “bad-boy”. Even in elementary school, he was tall, dark, handsome and dangerous. (LOL! Those were the days, my friend! An elementary school John Travolta.) His name was (still is, if he’s still on this earth) Dusty Rhodes. I kid you not. He mostly just said HI, but it scared me and it thrilled me that he noticed me. (He must have been bored.) I never told my father because I was afraid he wouldn’t let me ride to school anymore. I didn’t encountered Dusty again that summer, and I think his family moved soon after school started. I wonder what happened to him.
Much as I loved riding my bike, I never rode it to school on a school day. I wonder why not.
Riding my bike opened an entirely different world for me. I had a vivid imagination. I would imagine I was somebody on a mission to save the world. I could be traveling the world and seeing new sights, just by hopping on the bike and peddling off down the street. I could be in a race or on a mission or discovering a Secret Garden (one of my favorite books at that time)… all in my imagination.
I loved riding after a rain, with all the sidewalks washed fresh and clean and shining. And I can still remember thinking how beautiful the world was, coasting downhill, the breeze blowing through my hair. Oops. No helmet. Of course, helmets are a very good idea, but it’s an idea that evidently never crossed anyone’s mind in the 1950’s. Helmets are very important and I highly recommend them, but I would have missed that lovely feeling of wind in my hair. I am thankful I survived the freedoms of those years unscathed.
One little silver lining to this pandemic mess, seems to be that kids are riding their bicycles more. I’ve even seen middle-schoolers riding together- think “ET”. And I love watching the neighborhood kids flying around our cul-de-sac on their bikes. They come in all sizes. We have one little guy, he must be 5 or 6, who is quite the dare-devil. He has a small two-wheeler and his helmet and he is peddling as fast has his legs will go. Once in a while, his bike will slide out from under him and he crashes but he pops right back up! No time for tears for this little guy! And he’s off, peddling fast again! Earlier in the lock-down, there was a group of girl-bikers who would roam the neighborhood, chasing after butterflies and lizards and invading yards at will. It’s either too hot now, or Mom has reigned them. Haven’t seen them in a month and I wonder what they’re doing for entertainment.
Did you ride a bicycle when you were a child? How did it make you feel? Where you free to roam or restricted? Helmet, no helmet? Do tell!