I just read a post written by Rhonda, one of my dearest bloggy friends… about her new bike. She mentions in her post that she still remembers her very first bike. It was pink. She loved that bike. But someone stole it and her heart was broken.
And Rhonda got me thinking about my first Big-Girl bike. Not the hand-me-down bikes I got from my older brother or a neighbor… the small training wheel kind of bikes with the training wheels removed. But my first real, brand-new, just-for-me Big-Girl girls bike. I got this bike on my 9th birthday. I remember jumping out of bed, because it was my birthday and all… and heading to our kitchen. As I made my way down our short hallway, I noticed something shiny and blue. This shiny thing was standing in the middle of our small kitchen. I couldn’t believe it when I realized that it was a bike. A girls bike. Mine. All mine. A Big-Girl girls bike. With the girl swoop. I had wanted a Big-Girl girls bike for a very long time, but I didn’t really think this dream would come true.
Oh, my. The blue was a royal blue. And my bike had a chrome headlight with batteries already in it. It had a little bell on the handlebars that my Mom & Dad were so happy to ring over and over again. But I think the most incredible thing about my bike was the license plate hanging hanging from the back of the seat. It was red and royal blue and said one word: SHARON.
I have kept that license plate all these years. Almost 49 years. I keep that license plate on the nightstand next to my side of the bed. I never really thought about why I keep that license plate next to my bed… but I think I now know why. Rhonda reminded me. It’s because I not only loved my bike, but more important, I loved the feeling and surprise and extraordinary love that my parents brought to my first bike. Right down to my name on it: SHARON. 9 years earlier, on that October morning, my parents had given me my name… and with my bike, they were giving me my first bit of independence. With my name on it. My identity. Me. Maybe I keep that license plate so close to my dreams because my Mom & Dad actually touched it with their hands… I can almost see my Mom buying it and my Dad winding little pieces of wire to attach it to my bike.
It’s funny to think that some little trinkets become such important… vital, even… ties to our pasts. I refer to these things as golden strings that connect the past to the present. My SHARON license plate is one such golden string… and keeping it next to my bed is a reminder of my childhood, I guess. All those bike rides with my cousin Debbie and my friends.
I remember riding my Big-Girl Bike just about everywhere a kid could ride a bike. To the field to play ball. To school. To the neighborhood store, where my Mom gave me money to buy Ring Dings. (Remember those, anyone!?) And all the way to Hampton Beach in the summertime. I remember seeing how fast I could ride my bike home from my cousin’s house down the street… especially after dark… with my headlight shining to ward off all the ghosts from the cemetery right across the street. This ride was all of about 3 minutes, but seemed like an eternity. I remember putting playing cards in the spokes to make my bike as cool as cool could be. I remember polishing my bike to keep it brand-new looking… and practicing riding with no hands. One time my Dad caught me riding with no hands and he stopped his car to reprimand me. But I continued to ride with no hands as often as I could get away with it… often down great big hills with my friends. What a rebel!
While I was riding my first REAL GROWN-UP “Cannondale Synapse” road bike recently, I thought of all the times I had ridden with no hands… and wondered if I could still do it. I was tempted, but I didn’t try! But ya know what I am going to do with my vintage SHARON license plate? I am going to find a spot for it on my GROWN-UP bike. It’s time to take it off the nightstand and bring it to life again. That’s what I am going to do… and remember being a kid with a new bike each time I ride or train or compete in a triathlon!
I don’t remember what happened to my first Big-Girl bike. When my family moved from New Hampshire to Rhode Island, my bike didn’t come with us. My parents probably gave it to a neighbor… and, by then, I was ready for an awesome 3-speed bike, anyway.
But the license plate came with us… a reminder of a little girl with a dream. Not much has changed!