Monday, May 12, 2008

Ride, Terri, Ride

My parents specialized in outside toys. Outside toys meant we weren't playing inside. When you have five kids in eight years, outside is a good idea.

When I graduated from kindergarten, I got my first bicycle. It was 1967 and like all other transportation at the time, bicycles were cool. I got a purple banana seat bike. I was cool. The only problem was, my dad didn't believe in training wheels — throughout my entire childhood my dad didn't believe in safety nets, but that's another story.

So I had to learn to ride without training wheels. Oh, and my dad believed I should teach myself. All of those comfy, cozy images of a parent running along with a kid on a bike and letting go … yeah, that didn't happen.

I couldn't ride in the street, either until I learned to ride. This was interesting. I had to learn to ride in the driveway and many times the car was in the driveway. Are there any other fascinating elements we can add to this scenario? Oh, yes, the rose bushes beside the driveway … you get the picture.

But, this little 6-year-old girl was determined, and despite the bumps and bruises from cracking into the car, and the lacerations provided by thorny rose bushes, I learned to ride. I lived on that bike for most of my childhood.

There were other outside toys, too. We had a swing set and a jungle gym in our backyard. (And we actually had hard dirt under our play equipment.) Yep, the little girl with the fashionable pearl necklace is me. You will notice that I had on a blouse while the boys had on t-shirts. I was feminine. The grumpy boy in the dark blue t-shirt is my brother. The other two boys were our best friends, Cliff and Rusty.

When I was ten, my brother got a pogo stick for Christmas. I could tell you how cruel this was since my brother's disabilities made it hard for him to even walk a straight line, but I'm sure my parents had a reason.

Jimmy didn't see the reason though and he gave the pogo stick to me … after it got left in the driveway and run over by the car and the handle was broken off. But, again, determined, I learned to pogo without a handle. I could pogo a mile without stopping. Looking back it probably shook something loose in my little brain and that would explain some things.

Ah, yes … the magic of childhood. Honestly, it was a rough and tumble childhood, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I learned to improvise. I learned to take a fall and get up and go on. I learned to avoid the thorns. And I learned to savor the sunshine on my head and the wind through my hair as I rode a purple banana-seat bicycle across the West Texas desert.

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