The Bluest Bike

I want the cream-colored bike at Target, the one with the old fashioned handlebars and a brown leather seat. It has fenders like the big blue bike I had as a kid that I rode down 10 1/2 Mile Road, a wide dirt road with fat potholes that filled to the brim after a good rain. My ride took me past broad, flat acres of farmland where fires would sometimes break out in the summer and people would come out of their raw suburban houses with shovels to beat down the embers.

I loved my blue bike. Every spring I rolled it out of the garage, parked it on spread out pages of the Detroit Free Press and sprayed the fender and chain guard a new year’s coat of the bluest blue. I can’t explain my love for that bike. No bike since has captured my heart; they have all seemed like contraptions, complex with a hundred gears and requiring an unnatural posture where looking at the ground is the only way to avoid an aching neck. I sat upright on my blue bike so I could see the potholes and the fields burning.

I haven’t told anyone about the bike in Target although I took a picture of it with my phone which I could have sent to someone, my husband maybe but he would say, “You really want a bike from Target? We should go to the bike store.” But at the bike store, they’ll want to sell me toe clips and an iridescent vest. I want to wear a plaid button shirt with short sleeves and pedal pushers.

Christmas Eve makes me think of my blue bike and makes miss everyone I’ve ever known, even my younger self. I miss my parents and old lovers, my in-laws’ Christmas Eve of a roaring fireplace and Cold Duck. I miss my children even though most of them will be here tomorrow morning. They are adults now, weighed down by their lives like I was when I was their age, everything so complex in their striving to stay above water. I remember them gathered at the top of the stairs waiting for the signal to run to the tree on Christmas morning. They believed in Santa Claus for a long time.

My older daughter has been assembling two-wheel bicycles for her four-year old twins. Each bike came in three boxes. It takes courage to assemble a bicycle, this I know from having done it myself on Christmas Eve for her so many years ago. She slept in her bedroom, the door shut, while I spread out the nuts and bolts and the pages of instructions on the living room floor in the light of the enormous Christmas tree which, just days before, got stuck as we pulled it up the stairs to our second floor flat. I called a friend to bring me a wrench because the one I had didn’t fit and when the instructions called for axle grease for the handlebar column, I used Vaseline. It was what I had, besides I couldn’t leave her alone to go searching for axle grease on Christmas Eve. Where would one even go for such a thing?

The bike always veered to the left though she says she doesn’t remember that. I do. It was funny and evidence of my shortcomings at the same time. A better mother would have had axle grease. A better mother would have had a husband. I don’t think that now but I did then. What was I doing, piecing together bike bits in the dark of the night, screwing and unscrewing, reading and rereading? I guess I just wanted her to have a bike, a great bike, like my blue bike and I wanted to be the one to give it to her.

I wanted my girl to have a beloved blue bike and a dirt road and potholes full of rain and fields sometimes burning.


Photo: Tyra Baumler

The Daily Post: Cherish

20 Comments on “The Bluest Bike

  1. Pingback: Author Interview – Rachel Dacus – The Renaissance Club (Romance/Time Travel) & Poetry Collections (Earth Lessons, Femme au Chapeau, Gods of Water and Air & A God You Can Dance) | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  2. This story is so well told! I love how you circled back to the dirt road at the end. Well done!


  3. I loved the imagery in this piece, especially the contrast between the various bikes and what they each mean. And, don’t worry, your daughter loved the bike you assembled as much as you loved your bluest bike.


  4. Merry Christmas, Jan! I love that the bikes of old are back out now. They were always so classy. I was born in a time and place where I could never have private adventures like what I saw in movies. I used to wonder at the freedom of it. I loved reading this little bit about your life. I hope you Christmas was grand!


  5. Single mother in the trenches here: I, too, stretch myself probably farther than I should to be the one to give my kids the life they have. It is worth every sacrifice, just as it is worth your Target touring bike. My former mother-in-law (and still friend, thank goodness) did just that — she got the Target bike after her husband passed away and she spends hours riding it.


  6. I say go to Target and buy the bike! It probably won’t be as good as your bluest bike but maybe close? I feel a longing in here too, to return to a simpler life. Not sure you intended that, but it’s what I feel when I read your beautiful words.


  7. Jan, this is simply beautiful. I love the meandering between the connected bits of information. On a side note, I also want that SAME bike from Target. I look at it every time I’m there. Maybe we should both get the bike.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Great choice of title for this. Not just a blue bike. Anyone can have a blue bike. The bluest bike emphasizes the yearning for something more, something better that you convey in that last line.


  9. My god! Your daughter is so lucky to have a mommy who assembled a bike for her! And, a single mom, at that! You are fabulous, as is your bike-story! It took me back to my childhood when I had a cycle of my own – a red one – that I went on for long drives as a little girl!


  10. I had a beige Hiawatha bike. Have no idea what happened to it, but your piece makes me wish I still had it. I saw a wonderful old fashioned bike at Walmart last year and, like you, yearned to buy it, but cobblestones don’t lend themselves to seventy year old women on bicycles. Shocks me to write that number.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. this is so very lovely, jan. i can understand it so well, having been single mother. i bought myself a beautiful cream colored bike from target two summers ago, and i put a basket on it to carry flowers. i have named it ‘white lightning.’ merry christmas )

    Liked by 2 people

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