By Janice Lindsay, Contributing Writer
The summer I was 7, I was obsessed. I desperately wanted – no, I desperately needed – a bike.
Not that I knew how to ride, but I was so ready to learn. Whenever I visited a kid who owned a bike, I begged for a turn. But these were older kids. I found their bikes too big and my turns too short. I could not achieve the necessary balance and coordination.
I needed a bike of my own, just my size. And I knew where it lived, dark blue and shining: in the window of the hardware store in our little country town.
I did not beg. My parents didn’t have money for bikes.
Our family of four – my sister is two years younger than me – lived, at our paternal grandfather’s invitation, in the two-bedroom house he had built before our grandmother died. The first and only floor was ours. Grandpa had carved out a tiny room for himself in the attic. He was retired, with a small pension from the textile mill where our father still worked.
Morning classes at our summer Vacation Bible School provided a brief distraction from my bike obsession.
One noontime when we came home from church, Cheryl and I went to our room to change our clothes. To my astonishment, there sat my bike, leaning on the bureau between our beds: the blue one from the hardware store. Grandpa had bought it with his pension money.
Technically, it was our bike – Cheryl’s and mine – but the obsession belonged to me.
Now I must learn to ride.
Mom forbade practice on our barely-traveled road. I tried over and over, starting at the top of our dirt driveway with its gentle downward slope that put gravity on my side, to the turnaround and back. By suppertime, I had mastered it.
The next day, Cheryl wanted turns, and of course she must have them, and I would help her learn to ride.
You can’t explain how to ride a bike. You can only advise.
She struggled. As she tried repeatedly to get the hang of it, I noticed that she hesitated. She started at the top of the driveway, pedaled, then stopped pedaling, and over she went. We devised a system. She pushed off, and I ran behind, calling, “Keep pedaling! Keep pedaling!” She did, and soon she had the knack.
Then we devised a system for taking turns.
Not long after that, we returned from Bible School to find a second bike awaiting us, a pale blue one, for Cheryl. Our taciturn Grandpa said only, “It won’t do to have one bike for two little girls.”
That experience taught me a valuable lesson, and not just about obsession or persistence or the generosity of kind, perceptive grandfathers. I learned about pedaling.
We can ride through life smoothly for a while, then something happens to throw us off balance. We’ve all had the experience: a serious loss or a difficult change in circumstances. We’re confused, uncertain. We don’t know what to do, or how to think, or where to turn, or how to reorder our lives to our new reality.
There’s only one thing we can do: Keep pedaling. Pedal with one little push at time, even if we wobble and don’t know where to steer. Do what we can, one small act, then another, then another. Keep pedaling, and gradually the way becomes clear.
No matter what problem we face, somebody is sure to say, “Things work out.” Indeed, they do. But if they work out for the best, or even for the good, it’s probably because somebody has kept pedaling.