My memories of many Christmases and the gifts I received are a little murky, but something that shines brightly through the haze, was the bicycle I found next to the tree one Christmas morning. It was a blue Schwinn with chrome accents and a sparkly silver banana seat. How could anyone possibly forget such a machine?
Of course if you are six (almost seven) and receive a bike for Christmas, you insist on being outside learning to ride it even on a cold December day. My mom spent the day in her nightgown and robe so she deferred to my dad to be the one to run alongside their child while becoming acquainted with the ways of a bike.
My dad was never known for his patience, but looking back at that episode, I realize he was more than patient with me as he spent a good portion of that winter day running back and forth along the gravel road in front of our house. What?! A six year old was expected to learn to ride a bicycle on a gravel road? And not just a gravel road, but an ice-incrusted gravel road? Yep!
One day of running beside me holding onto the bike seat wasn't enough. The next morning we did it again; up and down the road we went. Finally, dad pried me off that silver seat and rolled the bike to the house. My knees and elbows were bruised and bloodied from multiple falls, but I didn't want to give up. He said we would try again when it warmed up. He parked the bike next to the porch and went in the house.
Over the next few days while dad was at work, I practiced some more. I didn't succeed in staying upright on the bike. I did succeed in gathering a few more grazes and contusions.
On the first day back to school, I announced to my class that I had received a bike for Christmas and had learned to ride it. I don't know what possessed me to tell such a tale and I spent the rest of the day in deep anxiety that I would have to prove my deceitful boast. After school, my friend, Lynette Hepworth, came home with me, saw the bicycle and expected me to ride it. With severe trepidation I wheeled it to the road, climbed onto the sparkly seat and pushed myself off into the gravel. I moved my feet onto the pedals and started pushing them around. Suddenly, I was riding. I wasn't tipping over. I was really doing it. I zipped down the road, turned around and came back to where Lynette was standing and skidded to halt spraying gravel behind me. She didn't seem adequately impressed, but I was in awe at what I had just done.
I have heard people say some things are "like riding a bike", meaning once you learn how to do it, you never forget. The thing that stuck with me over the years is Professor Harold Hill's 'Think Method' (from The Music Man) isn't unusual, in fact is downright believable!
What are your memories of learning to ride a bike? Did you learn on a dirt or gravel road? Have you ever employed the 'think' method to gain a new skill? Have you ever been saved from a lie by happy accident?