As I may have previously mentioned, I have many older sisters. When I was around seven or eight my sister, W, gave me her banana seat bike. It was ludicrously too big for me. And I didn’t know how to ride a grown up bike.
But I was determined to learn to ride it. This bicycle was… magic. It was yellow and white like a banana cream pie. I think it had some stickers on it, Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake. The original 70’s version. Something like that.
It represented everything I wanted for myself. To be grown up, and strong and tall and as beautiful as the sister that gave it to me. I still dream about this bike now, almost 20 years later.
I tried to teach myself to ride it. There was nobody to help me. And I was already fiercely independent by that age. Either I would teach myself to ride this bike, or I would seriously injure myself trying.
It turns out, I would injure myself trying. I don’t even know how many times I fell off. How many cuts and scrapes I got trying to master this new skill.
Looking back, I am amazed at my determination. I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt. I was afraid of this beautiful bike going to waste. I wasn’t discouraged. I kept getting back on that bicycle with a determination that borders on the obsessive and deranged.
After a few days of this, a neighbor girl rode by and saw me struggling. I did not know her. She was older. Younger than my older sisters, but too old to want to be friends with me.
I was painfully uncool in my hand me down clothes and god awful hair. I remember her being tall and impossibly cool for a preteen girl. She had perfect silken hair and wore real lipstick!
She offered to help me learn. I hesitated to accept her help. I had already learned many lessons on trust and betrayal. But I didn’t see any other way to learn. I accepted. I don’t even remember her name.
It took her one day to teach me to ride. But a few weeks for me to learn to stop. During that time, I just dragged my feet along the ground until I slowed enough to jump off. The bicycle really was too big for me to properly stop on anyway. But I planned on growing into it. This bike and I were going to be together forever. I was going to learn bicycle maintenance just to keep it in perfect shape.
Only a few short weeks after mastering the skill of riding a grown up bike, it was stolen off our front porch in the night. I was crushed with disappointment. I was never going to be a beautiful, tall, strong adult. I cried. I was inconsolable for weeks. I would lie awake at night and wonder who had my bike now. I knew they would never love it the way I did.
My parents bought me a new bike a few years later. But it could never live up to the banana seat bike. My memory of it had built my stolen bicycle up so much. It had become a mythological creature in my mind.
The new bike didn’t stand a chance. It was a mountain bike, pink and purple. It seemed garish and crass compared to the banana seat bike. It was too girly for my taste. Who was it trying to impress with it’s rugged tires?
It was like eating Godiva dark chocolate truffles for months and then being expected to be satisfied with a bar of stale Hershey’s chocolate. My love affair with biking had ended. And it was never again rekindled.