A Novel Sense of Balance by
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(183 Stories)

Prompted By Riding a Bicycle

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Maybe the bicycle was blue. I really don’t remember. In my mind it is as misty as the featured image. It didn’t have hand brakes or gears, that I know. I skipped training wheels because father didn’t believe in them. I must have received the bike for my seventh birthday in the spring of 1960. Thinking back, it must have been a significant expenditure for the family, who was strictly economizing at the time.

Suddenly I sensed more freedom and realized that my dad had let go of the bike.

My dad thought it important that I learn to ride a bike, so I guess that philosophy was the impetus for the gift. Although I was physically timid, I was also excited to learn. Our neighborhood consisted of parallel avenues that rose and fell in sharp inclines, block by block. Perpendicular to the avenue where we lived were streets that acted as flat terraces. It was not possible to learn to ride a bike on the avenues, so my father walked the bike and me to the nearest terrace and had me climb on. He gently pushed and guided the bike as I began to pedal. “Now, find your balance,” he said.

I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but as we moved along it felt as if my head were held up by marionette strings. My back relaxed and I could pedal rhythmically. Suddenly I sensed more freedom and realized that my dad had let go of the bike. It was a frightening thrill, and I kept pedaling. Over the next several lessons I gained confidence and could pedal in an oval around the flat terrace, quickly reverse the pedals to come to a stop, and dismount. The sense of balance was wonderful.

I don’t recall riding up and down the steep hills very often, but I did like to ride on the terraces and could visit friends. Later my brother broke his collarbone, falling off his bike when riding too fast on the avenues.

We were bussed to middle and high schools, so I no longer rode a bicycle. My first year in California, I borrowed my brother’s bike to explore my new neighborhood. All went well until a few hours later, when my derriere hurt and it turned out I had bone bruises from the boy’s bicycle seat. The urban areas I lived in as an adult, combined with my timidity, precluded a lot of bike riding, and then my foot issues made riding anything but a stationary bicycle truly unsafe.

However, if needed, I could get on a bike and ride it, because it’s true that once you learn, you don’t forget. And I’ll never forget that feeling of a novel sense of balance, gained as a seven-year-old pedaling down a terraced street.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: moving, well written

Comments

  1. Thanx Marian for the sweet memory of your father teaching you to “find your balance”, a lovely metaphor for us all as we navigate down the bumpy roads of our lives!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I love the way you describe that novel sense of learning to balance, without really understanding what it meant; that frightening thrill, but also sense of confidence. The terrain sounds tricky (like your brother, my husband has broken his collar bone – more than once) and that is challenging. I also no longer ride on the roads, but, as you say, one never forgets.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    Your story mirrors mine a lot. It is a great feeling when you first get that balance thing going, and a whole new way to move in the world. I empathize with the bone butt thing too—comfort seat for me all the way. We turned one of our bikes into a stationary one (bad knees) but it is not as much fun. Good memories.

    • Marian says:

      The stationary bike is boring, I find, unless I can watch TV while doing it. Because of COVID, I haven’t been in the gym for a long time. A comfort seat sounds great, wish I knew about it at the time.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    You are lucky to have that beautiful memory of your father teaching you to ride a bike.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    As others have noted, this is beautifully told. “Sense of balance” is a perfect term, and I think one that we all felt at that first, special moment. And yes, so far as I know, never forgetting how to ride a bike is one cliche that’s actually true. Though, as much as I ride, I sometimes worry that I will still forget how. I believe that’s called over-thinking.

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