The summer I turned 6, I broke my arm badly in several places. It is humid in Salt Lake City in the summer - there are frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Casts in those days weighed approximately what the limb they encased weighed. It was a pretty unpleasant 8 weeks. I got the only whack to my rear end that I can ever recall when I was discovered behind the garage with a stick down that cast, scratching at the miserable peeling skin. And worst of all, as school was letting out, there had been bicycle talk as in "you shall get one this summer" - plans that were postponed when the arm snapped. By the time the cast came off, it was already my birthday which means already time to return to school.
We lived in a duplex. Lorri Christensen, next door, had a cute little squatty pee wee bike with training wheels upon which she shot around the neighborhood like a streak. I was green with envy. But there was to be no pee wee for me! Although my dad liked to think that he was in every way different from his Depression-era, thrifty parents, the apple didn't really fall too far from the tree. So we started the tango of the bicycle. He determined I would need only one bicycle in life and it must carry me across all ages, heights and purposes. Since he always expected me to quickly master anything, there would be no silliness such as training wheels. A bell and a basket would be allowed - those were sensible accessories. Enter one big bike. One might even say a manly bike.
Our driveway was about a mile long. When Dad brought the bike home, he demonstrated its operation. The bike seemed to fit him very well. He was 5'6". Mom got on the bike for a showoff spin. The bike seemed a little large for her. She was 5'2". Finally, I was urged to mount the bike and let her roll. I quickly proved to have no natural talent for it. I wobbled dizzily from side to side. I had a terrible time trying to make the thing roll in a reasonably straight line. The thing was so large I felt like I had saddled up an early velocipede and it was really very heavy. Finally, however, with lots of encouragement, I found my balance and my nerve. I was pretty OK on that bike. I was no Lorri Christensen. But I was deemed safe enough to leave the driveway and take it for a spin on the sidewalk of South 6th East.
My maiden voyage was timed for Dad's return from work one evening. In my bike basket, I had made a bed for my Tiny Tears doll - she was all tucked in with her bottle, her diaper and the doll quilt my Granny had made to match the quilt she made me. Feeling pretty sturdy, I started out in the driveway near the garage. I rode that mile down the driveway (no, of course not literally - it was just very long) and sized up the arc of my turn onto the sidewalk. There had been no rehearsal of this. I was flying without a net.
Whacked the front tire of that bike (with which it was believed I could not have hit the side of a barn) dead center into the huge wooden telephone pole, thereby ejecting Tiny Tears into the middle of South 6th East and myself onto the sidewalk gouging holes into both knees. Both parents tore up the driveway in my direction. "Limes, you can't whack into things with your bike, it will get damaged." Um, OK. "Limes, you've broken Tiny Tears' head open." Damn.
Yes, of course there were many happy years spent on a bike doing the normal things kids do - ride in packs, ride in solitary, ride to the store, the pool, school, a friend's home. But my start on the bike was inauspicious and my final voyage on the bike was notorious . . . another story for another day.
In my ears right now: Rock-A-Bye-Baby, in memory of Tiny Tears
Something that charmed me today: finding a picture of Tiny Tears from my era, when their heads were hard plastic and would break open if she were slammed to the ground.