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