As young boys, my brothers and I desired greatly to have a bike and learn to ride them. We dreamed of feeling the wind in our faces and racing each other around the block. Our friends all had bikes and we watned one too. We were young and didn’t comprehend that they cost money to buy. We didn’t have much money, we were not given new bikes, my dad built us our bikes out of old broken and salvaged bicycles he would find.
I remember watching him nightly as he would take the bikes completely apart, replacing broken parts on one bike with good parts from another. As always, with any project he started, the time and detail he spent making sure everything was perfect was unmatched and his workmanship was better than anything we could have been given new.
When my dad finished with each of our bikes, they were shinier and better built than anything we could have gotten out of some box in a store. We were excited and anxious to learn to ride them. Our eyes were filled with wonder and imagination as we watched the painstaking effort and detail spent on each bike. This combined with the excitement and anticipation we felt as young boys has left a profound imprint upon my mind.
We learned to ride our bike around the old apple tree in our front yard. The rotten apples would make for a bumpy journey around and around the tree as my dad dutifully chased after us. There were many crashes and bruises as we continued circling that tree, yet the excitement of learning to ride our magnificent bikes made the challenge of learning seem null and void.
We felt so invigorated as we learned to keep our balance along that bumpy grass and we gained a great sense of balance and gratitude along the way. We learned to ride on that grass and around that tree to soften our landing when we would crash. My father knew we would crash and fall many times and wanted to keep us as safe as possible as we learned.
Finally we graduated to the street in front of our home. My dad would run behind us holding the back of our seats before letting go. We would find ourselves on our own journey down the streets imagining to ourselves that we were racing the train that passed in front of our home.
Eventually we were off and riding on our own. We would spend hours each day riding around the neighborhood. We were cowboys and indians racing across the plains on our horses to the police officers in the tv show CHiP’s. We would race along the canals and jump the banks. We lived on our bikes in the summer months and very seldom crashed. We had develped great balance and coordination riding over the old apples in the front yard.
I fondly reminisce about this time in my life. The memories of my father running behind us and my mother proudly watching us as we took flight on our bikes flood my mind. I cannot help but think of the lessons that were taught during that important time in my life. Lessons of gratitude, humility, trust and perseverance are among some of the things we learned.
I learned that a loving parent allows us to journey along a sometimes bumpy path in life for our own growth and development. Paths that make us more balanced and capable. I learned how loving parents desire to give us those things that we want, yet sometimes they require great effort and sacrifice to obtain. I learned to be grateful for the gifts that I have been given and to live within my means. Sometimes in life, the things we desire the most must be torn apart, cleaned, repaired, painted and reassembled where they become new again and stronger than before.
There are so many lessons about life that were taught when we learned to ride a bike. I am grateful for wise parents who taught us by example and not just word. I am grateful to know that each time I fall, I can get back up stronger than before. Lessons for life learned around the old apple tree.
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