Jon and I buzzed down the street and flew past vineyards and cruised along under the clear blue sky.
Our helmets had little brims to shade our eyes from the sun, something the helmets of my childhood lacked entirely. Six miles went by like nothing, easy and smooth; I barely broke a sweat.
The joy of zooming around on two wheels for fun is foreign to me. I've never been a huge fan of biking. When I was little, it was the way we got to school. The distance between my house in Newark and little Bunker Elementary School used to feel like an Ironman... hundreds of leg burning miles, block after block of suburbia and traffic lights and pavement buckling above rogue tree roots. Now, of course, I find that it was less than two miles total.
Still, we had to cross Cherry Street, a massive intersection where my littlest brother, Curtis, was once hit by a truck. I remember his bike flipping up in the air and his little body crumpling as he hit the pavement. The truck driver squealed away from the scene of the crime without looking back, but many other good people stopped to help.
Eventually, Curtis was strapped to a stretcher and driven away in an ambulance... the EMTs gave him a teddy bear which he cherished for many years after the incident. Curt was fine, but while Ted and Curtis kept biking through high school without any qualms, I never got completely past that terrible day. Vulnerable little Curty on a bicycle at the mercy of a demon truck.
With the exception of a Fourth of July bike show my brothers and our friends and I put on for all the parents when we were very young, biking always seemed like such a chore. Even securing a baseball card to a place on the frame where it could snap between my spokes and mimic a motorcycle motor didn't quite make it cool.
But now I'm giving biking a go once again, and it does feel cooler than it did.
After our short excursion, we returned the bikes to my parents house and went home. Later, Dad sent me his own childhood reminiscences about bikes, and I thought I'd post them here because it's fun and funny, and because he remembers his specific bikes so fondly. (I suppose if I gave it a chance, my deep purple Schwinn Sidewinder would take up residence in some happier corner of my memory, too... but that could still take some time.)
Giant patches of sunlight floated across the grass and then were swallowed up by the thick, gloomy clouds. Still, it was definitely Summer. I could feel Summer in the buzz of electricity coursing through the veins of the students around me as the strained in their seats and called for a hit. I could hear Summer in the muffled, moist whistle of the boy beside me as he pursed his lips and blew around a plucked blade of grass squeezed between his fingers. I could hear Summer in the crack of Mr. P's aluminum bat as it connected with the softball.
Mom and I cheered. Mr. P rounded the bases at a healthy trot, knowing he was being watched closely by the two women who have the right to lambaste him when he exerts himself. Mr. P, beloved by his students and his fellow teachers, is my dad, and I'm never prouder of him than when I see him in front of his kids.
But the whopping smile on Mr. P's face as he "stole" home was due to more than the impending Teacher win. He was smiling because he was within a day of his Summer vacation. Lucky teacher!
I was smiling, too. Summer is fun! It means BBQs, fireworks, the Alameda Country Fair (starts July 1), and, perhaps best of all, the Summer schedule at The Stanford Theater in downtown Palo Alto!
Drops of perspiration trembled along my jawline, clustering defensively in the face of gravity, and then splashed onto my bare, pumping thighs. We have a 'new' exercise bike, gifted to us by a friend who has acquired truly new exercise equipment and needed the space. The bike sits in our loft, three feet from our giant television. From the seat, I can watch a full version of Friends while "biking" eight miles. It's new. It's not something I ever pictured myself doing in this house. But little in my life looks the way I once thought it would.
I'm married. That happened much sooner than I'd ever considered. I'm a cat owner, even while everyone knows that I am a big dog person... both in the sense that I love all dogs all the time, and that I especially love BIG dogs. I work as an Account Manager for a large commercial insurance firm. I work for my mom. I do not have an advanced degree. I have not moved away from Livermore. I have watched more X-Files episodes than I care to admit.
These are the facts. I lead a charmed life, an adventurous life, a life of love and activity and purpose. It's coming to terms with the truth that the purpose is so different than what I'd once believed that can sometimes trouble me. Only for a moment, though, and then I'm holding my husband's hand and we're off to have Chinese food before it's time to hit the gym.
Recently, Jon and I were asked about our "two-year plan." Jon looked at me, and I nodded in agreement as I watched a wan, tepid smile appear on his handsome, thirty-year-old face. Two-year plan?
If we'd been asked that question two years ago, our Plan would have included home ownership. That's why, last year at this time, we were in the throes of purchasing what we were thrilled to think of as our first home. That was shortly before the housing market collapsed around us. We'd imagined that town home as a buried treasure, a place meant just for us to find, within walking distance of all our favorite downtown spots, a sweetly priced deal for the size, a fun floor plan just begging for paint and artwork and furniture all our own.
But lenders ceased lending and, though we had our down payment prepared, though we'd signed all the papers, though the bank had 'okayed' the deal, our mortgage wouldn't come through.
We lost money on that process. What's worse, we lost time, four summer months spent entirely focused on that purchase. What's worst of all is that we lost our enthusiasm.
Today, neither of us is intrigued by the idea of home ownership. What ought to have been the next exciting adult step in our combined life has become a dreaded secondary path, something which we simply know will give us ulcers and bleed our savings dry.
And so, our response to the concept of any plan beyond the next month or so is sardonic.
To get around this, we deal in dreams rather than plans, and our biggest dream for the future includes living abroad for a couple of years.