Twilight Bike Ride
Kay Patterson

Mama insisted.

“You’re gonna learn to ride a bike.”

Dangling my feet into the kiddie pool I’d recently outgrown, I felt my stomach do a high dive. “I am?” I said in my smallest five-year-old voice.

“You are.”

“It’s h-o-t!”

This was a reversal of my day-long whine about being sequestered in front of fans because “the government” said it was too hot for kids to be outside. Only when the sun started to go down did Mama relent and let me out.

But her relenting mood had passed. She began rooting around in the kudzu. Emerging, she crooked her finger at me and marched off toward the sidewalk wheeling a bike I’d never seen before. “Come on. You can do it.” I slunk along behind.

The buildings in our low-country apartment complex, home to the workers who made the French Quarter run, formed a big square with a sidewalk defining the perimeter of the common grounds where we kids played the games of the 1950’s: tag, Mother May I, Red Rover. No games tonight. Only Mama and a borrowed two-wheeler.

Sweat poured off me, fear mixing with the steaming August heat to create a puddle right next to that dreaded bike.

“It’s d-a-r-k.” I still resisted a lesson being delivered without my consent.

“That’s enough!”

Easing one leg over the crossbar, I stood still. “You won’t let go of me?”

“Of course not! Up!”

I had to stand on tippy toes. That seat was as high as a Ferris wheel!

My left foot caught a pedal. A second later, the other pedal tapped my right foot and whoosh! Mama pushed that bike into motion, holding me steady with a firm grip on the back of the seat. Suddenly, my stomach was diving from an even higher board and I was fighting with handlebars that just wouldn’t stay straight.

Around the square we went, and around and around. Much later, when I gathered the nerve to take my eyes off the patch of sidewalk in front of me and glanced over my shoulder, I saw Mama walking quietly with her hands at her side.

I was riding a bike! Was I cool or what? No sweat now. It flew off into the breeze I was creating all by myself.

Who needs training wheels when you have a mother whose fiercest desire is to teach you something she didn’t know how to do herself? She’d never been on a bike. It was one of many things girls just didn’t do on the farm where she was grew up.

I would know no such limitations.

First published: August 2018
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