Friday, October 10, 2014

Riding Games

We had a mini bike.  I’m not certain of its origins.  We had to tinker with it from time to time to keep it running.  The spark plug would foul and have to be cleaned with a sacrificial toothbrush.  We pooled our allowances to buy gas.  And if Mother had known the thrilling, and probably very dangerous games we played on it, she would never have let us ride it in the first place.  Or maybe she would.  She and Dad had matching Husqvarna dirt bikes.  I only ever saw her ride hers once.  After that, my Uncle Bob, her younger brother, rode hers mostly.   But she did it.

My favorite mini bike game required some preparation.  We had to crawl through the ivy that bordered several driveways and gather snails, saving them in a pitcher donated by mother.  Snail ammunition makes an audible and somewhat sickening pop when the shell cracks as it hits you while you speed by on the mini bike.  The rules were simple.  No face shots, and try not to wreck the bike.

Another marauder would stand in the yard with a bb gun as you as you raced down the long driveway when it was your turn.  This person would shoot at you, pelting you with bb’s.  They stung a bit, but bounced off denim.

As long as a snail shell didn’t break your skin, a bb didn’t take your eye out, and you didn’t have a colossal bike wreck, ride into traffic past the end of the driveway, or (Heaven forbid) ride across the street and land in the creek, you were golden!

Once, a snail shell broke the skin on my brother Lin’s elbow.  It was infected for weeks and had to be lanced.  Another time, a bb broke the skin on his scalp at the bottom of his helmet and had to be removed.  It was just rolling around under there at his hairline, but we couldn’t extract it.  We thought it was really cool.  Mother was very skeptical of how a bb aimed at a target hit him while he was riding the opposite direction on the opposite side of the yard.  We were all thick as little thieves.

We also chased the mini bike up and down the driveway on our bicycles if we were not shooters or snail throwers.  It just made it more exciting!

Riding a mini bike is nothing compared to being on the back of Dad’s motorcycle.  Dad would favor us with rides from time to time.  Most of the time they were short rides around the neighborhood after he had been out riding with Uncle Bob all day.  But every year on a birthday or special occasion, or maybe on a Saturday, he would take one of us up the canyon before it got too cold for a long one on one bike ride.  Or maybe out for a high speed,  flat out run by the Great Salt Lake near the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Sometimes it could be to some other special place he had scoped covering a recent news story.  Wherever it was, it was always fascinating, and a special time with him.  One such ride, we stopped to rest and he informed me we would move back to Washington, DC again.  I was ok with it.  I no longer belonged in Utah.

How I loved these rides!  There is a special trust I a girl has for her Dad anyway.  But when you are on a motorcycle behind your Dad, you develop a rhythm with your bodies.  You learn which way to lean, how to center your gravity, and you communicate without words.  I would put my hands inside Dad’s pockets or hook them around his belt and relish the freedom, the wind, the sights and sounds, the vibration.  I would eventually fall asleep, knowing all was right with my universe.  Later I would rock out with my Walkman inside my helmet until I had checked out for a snooze, too still and frozen to move.  Now that is trust.  And I learned something that stuck.  If you don’t feel that way about your lover, your spouse, your  intended; then he is not THE ONE.  No matter what your body says.  No matter what the hormones are screaming at you.  No matter what logic tells you or your heart says.  If you would not get on the back of his bike, and then fall asleep on the back of his bike, then it is all wrong.  A man may feel that way about you, but if your yardstick doesn’t measure him in that way, then he will eventually fail you in the ways that matter most to you.  Believe me, I know.

Now, I ride my own bike.  Spouse number two taught me how.  I relish the freedom.  The speed.  The wind, the sights and sounds, the vibration.  And I like being a cool biker chick.  I will teach my daughter to ride, but first, she will ride on the back of my bike.  There are important lessons there.

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