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Monday, May 14, 2007

HOW I LEARNED TO RIDE MY BIKE











There is a legend in my family. When my sister Cheryl read
my posts about our family trips up home she asked me if I
was going to post something about it.



It was shortly after we’d moved into the Capen St. triple decker
apartment in Dorchester and kids in the neighborhood noticied
that I still had one training wheel on my bike. Now confession here
: I’d seen an older kid thrown over the handlebars of his bike right
outside our house in Malden. I was in no hurry to have something
like that happen to me.




Ok, I was a chicken.



Dad was of course was working so it was Mom who ran me up and down
the street trying to get me to keep my balance while the other kids
watched and called out advice or laughed. Finally I just wouldn’t
get on the bike.



I should have known better.



A few weeks later we went uphome for vacation with the bike
strapped upright atop the car roof. How Dad did it, I don’t know.
This was pre-bikerack days. I do recall it involved a lot of rope and
open car windows. We got to Aunt Flossie’s house which was at
the end of a long downhill driveway at the bottom of which was a
garage or small barn. And the next day the lessons began.




Mom would start me off at the top of the driveway and push the
bike and down I’d go to either fall over or keep my balance until I
hit the garage door At some point they opened the door and put
something in there softer for me to hit. I’m not sure. I was busy
yelling like McCauley Culkin in “Home Alone” as I wobbled down
the hill. I just knew I’d fall and each time Mom would get me back
up and tell me to try it again.




Eventually I learned to stay on the bike. Hitting the brakes and
steering came a little later. When my kid brother Phil came along
and my sister’s kids after him, they heard about how I was taught
to ride a bike.


Mom was a tough cookie. She had to be, growing up when she did
and how she did. She had a temper you’d expect from a redhead
and she made us toe the line but she was ready to step in to defend
one of us if she felt we needed it.



She loved to sing and while untrained had a good voice. She used
to sing a duet of “God Bless America” to close the Saturday Night
Dances at the Abington VFW.



Mom liked parties and threw two Halloween Costume Parties I
vividly remember. For one she dressed up as the Underwood
Ham Red Devil and greeted guests on the front lawn, pitchfork in
hand. For another she went with her resemblance to Carol Burnett
and dressed up as The Washerwoman character.



She liked to watch the Boston sports teams, especially the Celtics
of the Larry Bird era and would often yell at the referees on the
tv. She also rooted for the Red Sox. When Pudge Fisk hit that home
run to win the game in the 1975 World Series everyone else but
had gone to bed and we woke them up with all the cheering we did.



She adored her grandchildren and I wish she’d had more time to
spend with them all..



When Dad died she was heartbroken. Luckily some friends from
the Post took her in hand and eventually she met Joe with whom
she found laughter again. I think if they hadn’t met we’d have lost
Mom sooner than we did.

Mom died of cancer in 1999 and it’s hard to believe she’s been
gone for eight years now. As with Dad’s passing there’s a lot of
things about those final days that are difficult to think about. But
there’s a lot of good things from the years before for us to remember
and laugh.


Like how Mom taught me to ride my bike.

4 comments:

Janice said...

Bill,

Your story brought back some wonderful, albeit scary memories. I grew up in a "three-decker" in New Hampshire at the top of a hill. Learning how to ride a bike was a thrill :D

Janice

Miriam said...

Bill, I sure enjoyed your story! I think learning how to ride your bike ought to be a story every parent tells their children! In my case, it was the mom of my best friend, Chon, who taught us to ride together, literally. We would take turns sitting on the front of her banana-seat bike and steering and peddling while the other one would sit behind, hanging on for dear life!

A great tribute to your mom!

Bill West said...

Glad you both enjoyed it!

Nikki-ann said...

A great story! :D