Learning to fly

June 6, 2011

Poohsticks_blog020

I had occasion today to recall being brave enough to make my first bike ride without the training wheels. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I can tell you exactly where I was.

This might take a while and I might ramble.

When I was still a squirt (say, ages three through six), we’d spend the summers in Bloomington, Indiana, because my dad was working on his doctorate degree in music theory at Indiana University. It took a while because he only did summers. During the school year, he was a professor of music at Ohio Northern University. That’s a whole other topic, ONU.

There were a few kid milestones that happened during those summers at IU. I won’t claim to remember if they’re in chronological order. But they did happen. Oh blargh, now I’m calling my mom to check. Hang on …

Okay, it was during my ages three through seven that I went. My dad went one additional year without my mom and me.

The main milestone I want to focus on is learning to ride a bike, or more precisely, the day I ditched the training wheels. Because I do remember it. What I didn’t confirm with my mom just now was how old I was, but I feel like it was the summer when I turned six. (I was one of those fortunate kids whose birthday is in the middle of summer and no fuss was ever made in class during the year.)

I had a hand-me-down bike, an old Schwinn from a neighbor. I thought it was copper, my mom said it was maroon. On that momentous day, I was riding up the diagonal sidewalk between the two apartment buildings—the one where we lived, and the other one where my little best friend Angie M lived (Angie was a year older than I). Somebody, probably my mom, I guess, because my dad would have been in class, noticed that I wasn’t putting any balance on the training wheels and said, okay, let’s take them off. And we did. And that was it.

The other thing I remember about that day (and I’m sure it’s entirely possible that I’m blurring events together because, let’s face it, that was forty years ago) is that along that sidewalk, just about where it met the other diagonal sidewalk with which it made an X, I came upon a squirrel that wasn’t too frightened by people and seemed willing to let me walk up to it with outstretched hand. One of the other adults present sternly warned me not to interact with the skwerl because it might be rabid and if it bit me, I’d die. There was some other thing about stray dogs peeing in the sandbox where we kids liked to play. Yay, adults and their scaremongering.

Other things I remember about those years, definitely not in chronological order:

My mom and I would play Poohsticks on one particular little bridge over the Jordan River which ran right through the middle of campus. As you’ve learned, in addition to rabbits, I have a history of Pooh.

We did spend one entire year there, so I attended kindergarten. I got along well with my teacher. She’d walk me home sometimes. In class, I learned the classic “My Napsack on My Back” song (val-da-ree …) On the walks home, she taught me another song that had slightly naughty words, that her husband disapproved of her teaching one so young as I. Maybe she wasn’t my teacher. Maybe she was just a friend of my parents’.

I remember vaulting off a stone wall that I’m going to estimate was at least six feet tall. There were four or five of us kids doing it. We had no fear of mortality.

Angie and I came to be in possession of a shopping cart for a couple of days. We pushed each other around in it, and we turned it over and made a fort out of it.

Angie and I also set up a lemonade stand on the other side of the apartment complex on a busier street. We made a little bit. Angie figured it all out and I remember feeling like I didn’t walk away with as much as should have been my fair share, you know, probably $2.25 instead of $2.75.

IU might also have been where my interest in science kindled. For whatever reason, my dad the music professor had a class in a lecture hall in the geology building. In the lobby was what to me seemed a moon-sized globe, as well as a two-storey pendulum. I found them both to be fascinating. I attended class with my dad one day, and it was on that day that a rare earthquake occurred, the only one I’ve ever been witness to, thankfully. It wasn’t much, just enough to be felt and to cause everyone in the hall to look at each other in “did you feel that?” wonderment.

I think what this boils down to is that I really fondly remember my time at Indiana University. You know, and my childhood.

Notrainingwheels_tyler_blog

 

Post script:
My dad’s doctorate thesis was not approved. He did not get his PhD. Years later when I myself was in college, I took an editing class. We had to come up with a long manuscript to edit and I convinced my dad to let me use his thesis.

Top photo: me, by my mom.
Bottom photo: a youngster who freed herself of training wheels today and was the inspiration for this post but who shall remain nameless, by her dad Tyler, an acquaintance of mine. If I had one of myself peddling around at that age, I would have used it instead.

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