This Boy and His Bicycle
It’s wonderful to be back in my boyhood hometown again to visit with my now elderly mother. It seems like centuries ago when I was growing up here. Back then, this small town was just a backdrop that formed the unremarkable environment in which I lived my everyday life.
Mom’s doing great for her age, but she’s moving slower these days. After a lengthy but heartwarming talk in the den about my wife, the kids and how well work is going back in the big city far from here, we have reached the point of being all talked out for now.
What a perfect time to go for a walk and get some fresh air. The outside loudly calls for a look around the neighborhood to see how things have changed, and how things have stayed the same. As I walk down the street, it’s like I’m on my trusted bicycle riding around as a young boy. I’m on yet another grand mission on my bike again. Oh, the places my bike could take me, and did.
There’s the small corner store, just a quick bike ride down one street and up another, where I can get an ice-cold soda in a glass bottle with the red metal cap. Inside is the long candy aisle where I must carefully consider my choices; will it be a candy bar, or pack of football cards with the bonus flat piece of bubble gum, or a handful of fireball jawbreakers? … The freedom to decide continues unabated¸ only the stakes are higher with time, requiring proportionally greater wisdom.
There’s the bridge over the lazy river where I love to park my bike, and just sit on the tall ledge to think penetrating thoughts, as I look down the river into the expansive horizon. How far does this river go, and what is beyond the river, and even what is beyond that? Maybe someday I can travel to experience it on my own when I get older … Many are the places I’ve since traveled, only to enlarge my curiosity further, as my awareness of the unknown has grown.
It’s only a quick ride to reach the old retired doctor’s house, whose lawn I mow weekly. He pays me a modest wage to help maintain his large yard. We always enjoy talking as we work together. I don’t remember exactly all that we talked about, but I do remember that he always listened and I felt appreciated. He sure did know a lot about what life has in store that is common to every man … His example of deliberate kindness and thoughtful wisdom showed me how to pass on the same to others younger than myself, many times over the years.
Up ahead is her house, just three houses down from that corner. I sure do have a crush on her. She is so lovely with pretty blond hair. I need to ride past her house yet again to see if I might find her outside where I could maybe, just maybe, have the chance to talk with her after school. I’m not sure what to say given the chance, but it’s worth the risk. Too bad she never really noticed me at school, even though we shared the same classes; I wonder where she is now … Years later in college, it was just as awkward when I first met my future bride and struggled to start a conversation, but those moments surprisingly became the initial spark that turned into the real communication of our now 25-year marriage.
Where is that special tree? I know it’s somewhere around here between these two houses, or is it the next house? I guess the tree is now long gone. Having packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch in my bicycle basket, I’m set to spend almost the entire day climbing around in it, where I can think and dream unrestrained. It is here I have found a glorious refuge; each large branch is its own lavish room comprising my expansive estate. What a rich man I am to have found such an interesting place that I can call my own! I love to climb to the very top where the highest branch is so narrow, I must hold on tight as I sway widely with it in the wind – because the higher I go, the more I can see. I can even see past the supermarket, with a glimpse of the ocean a mile beyond that. I’m glad my mother never knew how high I dared to climb … Ever since then, I have always found it well worth paying the price to reach the vantage point that affords life’s best perspective.
My bicycle enabled so much adventure along the safe sidewalks and sleepy streets of my town. It offered great freedom to explore. There were so many places to ride my bike, including special places that only I knew about. There were seemingly endless opportunities for discovery, compelling experiences, and even the thrill of imagined danger.
My life then had space wide enough to ride but secure enough with all its well-defined boundaries, where I purposed to set my course towards creating an engaging life to enjoy. This was a place that couldn’t have been more adventurous.
It’s been decades since those days of boyhood exploration, and I’m sure that rust has long since consumed my old bike. But even though everything is different now, nothing has changed. Life remains an adventure that continually beckons. Although I am more established now, I still fashion the places I call my own so that I may live large. I still must plan to set a direction and be careful to navigate a wise path.
This wonderful little town - this special appointed place - provided a significant time of preparation which was a microcosm of my life, where I learned, without realizing I was learning, the most important things before I ever lived them.