Monday, 18 December 2006

The Gift

When I was thirteen, and during the final week of the summer holidays, my Mum and Dad bought me a blue, secondhand ten-speed bike. I loved it. I even remember the day when I first learned that it would be mine.

I had spent the afternoon with some neighbours, who had taken a group of us for a swim in the Murray River. I injured myself.

While walking in the murky shallows, I was stabbed in the foot by a sharp stick protruding from the nauseatingly soft oozing mud - God only knows what else was lurking there...I always tried not to think too much about it!

Much blood spilled from my foot, which understandably gave the neighbours the heebie jeebies. Consequently, the swim was abandoned and our group were taken home - I hated the fact that I was the party pooper.

I was standing by when Mum informed Dad that she would be taking me to the clinic to get stitched up. He barely looked up....well, only long enough for me to note the disappointment and irritation in his abrupt reply, "well, I guess we won't be picking up that bike now, will we".

Despite the defeatist comment, the bike was still up for grabs the following day- we hadn't missed out after all. I did already have a bike - a purple dragster, but I really wanted a ten-speed, not that I voiced this desire. Ten-speeds were the kind of bike the big kids had; it was a serious bike...dragsters were for kids!

I rode that bike everywhere and at every opportunity. It was more than a bike to me. It was my escape vehicle.

If I wanted to leave, or was bored, I took my bike and rode for miles, thinking and checking out the town. If I was frustrated or angry, I rode hard and fast until my pounding legs screamed with agony, usually when my throat would not, or could not. It was my release.

This all occured before Australia introduced the mandatory, and often life saving, bike helmet laws. But I did enjoy feeling the wind tussling my hair; the cold breeze slapping my face; my fingers numb, red and stingy after a frosty winter ride to school.

I usually rode to school as fast as I could, which is surprising, because I DETESTED school with every morsel of myself, but then again, I barely ever said a word there, so I guess I was experiencing my own brand of the rant and rave as I raced...anger and frustration released before stepping into the dreaded classroom...that's healthy isn't it?

The race to school stood in stark contrast to the journey home, which usually saw me walking the bike home ...slowly; allowing myself ample time to reflect, digest and ponder the days events, and also the bigger, mostly morbid questions. I would also make up poems in my head, and would promptly forget them once I arrived home.

Anyway that bike served me well - it represented freedom. It also meant an awful lot that my parents entrusted me, not only with a new bike, but in allowing me to take my bike anytime, no questions asked, and simply disappear.

Ashley fixed my bike a couple of weeks back. It had been standing idle since the move to Canada, tyre tubes deflated and lifeless - not the blue ten-speed. Unfortunately that bike was stolen from me when I moved out of home sixteen years ago.
I rode my current bike again today - without a helmet -I know...I know- but to feel the breeze whipping through my hair; the chilling air stinging my face, and my legs screaming as I tore down the streets - hard and fast.....well, it just makes me smile.

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