Of course I love my mom. She’s a funny duck with some pretty silly notions about my potential– I guess there’s no reason I couldn’t try to be President– but she’s also my guidepost on the winding loop-de-loop path of adulthood. Granted, I don’t always follow her frantically waving arms, but I always seek them out.
My first bike had a lot of flowers on the seat, a white plastic basket and yellow grips. I was five when Santa delivered her and she came with training wheels that my dad (er, Santa’s elf?) had installed in such a way that neither was ever rolling on the sidewalk at the same time as the other. It was my dad who put me on my first bike and launched me on my first teetering ride. I rode askew, fighting gravity like a leaning tower for about a week, before my mom had had enough. “I’m taking those darn things off,” she declared. “They’re not doing you any good.” It was my mom who wrenched them off the back of my bike and who screamed at me with only enough reservation to keep me from crying, “CONCENTRATE! JUST CONCENTRATE!” I remember the long raspberry on my leg that taught me that bikes should not lean at 45 degree angles despite what the example set by my training wheels. Under my mom’s tense cheerleading, I figured it out.
It was only a few years later when my mom gave in to my persistent pleading for a 10-speed. She had one and she took it all over California and into Mexico for long-distance races. Until I was about seven, she crammed me into a loose-fitting plastic seat behind her when she trained. I bent my long legs onto the bike’s frame to keep them from disrupting her pace. We fell– a lot– usually when she needed to navigate a sharp turn or hop a curb. My plastic seat wobbled and bobbled behind her; it seems much of my early riding experience set me up to see the world at a jaunty angle. When I was eight, my mom tied a red bow on a copper Nishiki 10-speed. She bought it used from a teenage boy which convinced me immediately of my new bike’s street credibility. And, because it was a boy’s bike, I knew it would be fast.
My mom let me tag along on her rides around San Diego. We rode from the ‘burbs to the beaches and back again. We rode from the beaches to the cliffs. Our weekend rides could surpass 25 miles and neither of us had waterbottles or packets of sticky, nutrient-rich goo to sustain us. Instead, my mom stuffed scroggin in my pockets. Neither of us wore helmets– had they even been invented?– and she always made me ride in front of her except when she wanted me to go faster. If I lagged, I’d hear the tense cheerleader just over my shoulder: “CONCENTRATE, Megan. PUSH your little legs.” It was always, and remains, a matter of concentration for my mom. The only place my mom never let me ride with her was on those Mexico races. I believe I now understand her strategy. It wasn’t safety at issue but her freedom to drink tequila. Party on, MA!
The day before we moved to New Zealand, we went on a ride together in beautiful Coronado. We rented bikes since mine were en route and we may or may not have surreptitiously exchanged them for better ones when the attendant wasn’t looking. We followed the bike path along the coast, pausing occasionally to indulge fits of laughter over silly bike tricks we’d been pulling on each other since I was folded into the plastic seat behind her. “CONCENTRATE,” I shouted at her. “YOU CONCENTRATE!” she shouted back. We also stopped to catch the view, to stretch, and to sit quietly next to each other on a bench overlooking the grassy estuary of the San Diego Bay shallows. At the end of our ride, we ordered drinks because my mom still likes to party when the day has been just right. She toasted our journey. I toasted her for the ride.
Happy Mother’s Day Mary Annie, and Happy Mother’s Day to every wonderful mother out there who teaches her daughters and sons the fun of the ride, wherever it takes them. We couldn’t be here without you.
Thanks again for the ride. And, please, CONCENTRATE!