My Big Dream
If you asked me what my dream was as a child, I would have replied, “To cycle around with my mother sitting behind me.”
Despite this, my earliest cycling memory involves crashing! I tumbled from the twelfth floor of our building when the 14-year-old son of our neighbor thought it would be a great idea to push me, a four-year-old girl, down the stairs while I sat on my bicycle. It ended with a blackened and bloated forehead that refused to stop bleeding as my mother cried inconsolably, holding onto me tightly as the sky outside darkened.
My father was out sailing the seven seas, and my mother flooded our small apartment with her own ocean of tears, for she had no one to help. That night, she lovingly cleaned my forehead wound, which oozed pus and blood down my eyelid while clutching me in her arms. Just to make sure, though, she took me to the hospital the next morning at 8 am. Thankfully, I only had a badly bruised face and lived to tell the tale.
When I was in seventh grade, my father bought me a new bicycle, which had green stripes below its handlebars and a bell attached. It was perfect for me, a tomboy. The entire day, I kept hinting that I wanted to take the bike out for a ride.
“Papa, I was thinking we could go out for 15 minutes of fresh air, you know…”
“Mummy, I think I could study better if I did something else for a while…”
Alas! They never got the hint.
Although I was an outgoing child, I transformed into a loner as I grew older, and my academic performance went out the window. And because I was a failing student, and my math exam was right around the corner, playing outdoors or cycling was out of the question.
Still, my father had a sudden drive to teach someone how to ride the bicycle—which ended up being my brother. I remained indoors and watched from the fourteenth floor as he pedaled around the block with my father close behind.
On the other hand, my need to ride my bike caused me to ‘pedal faster’ toward studying harder and improving my grades, which I eventually accomplished.
After a few years, my black-and-green bicycle became too small to ride, so I wanted a new model. Again-and-again over the course of six months, I promised my parents that I would ride my new bike and assured them it wasn’t a passing fancy.
Eventually, my parents conceded, and my father and I went shopping. As soon as I saw its sleek red and black frame—which was big enough for me to ride–I was so excited that I felt like I was floating in the air. Later, I realized that my feet were literally off the ground because the bike was too big for me. Alas, I couldn’t ride it–but my brother could, and did.
Then, my time came. I felt the wind combing my hair, its caress on the arches of my feet, along with the rush of blood into my cheeks. The feeling of independence and the feeling of controlling my path was overwhelming as I cycled into the unknown.
As I pushed the pedals and worked to maintain my balance, my father assured me that he was behind me, although I knew he really wasn’t. My mind raced as I pedaled frantically and screamed, “I know you aren’t there, but I don’t care! You pulled this trick on my brother, too, and I was watching. The audacity!” But I didn’t care, because I was finally riding.
So many passers-by had suggestions for my father as I rode: “Why don’t you let her fall? That’s how she will learn best. That is how my son learned,” a middle-aged man offered.
Oh, how I agreed with him! This was one big thing my life had in common with cycling—we had to dust ourselves off after we fell and move ahead, sometimes with bruises and sometimes without.
One day, I was balancing the bicycle with my legs-that-didn’t-touch-the-ground, and clumsily dismounted. Thud! The bike toppled over on me and caused me to twist my ankle, which quickly swelled as I rode home. Still, I was grinning like crazy and thought the whole thing was so cool!
My family rarely goes out together anymore. My brother and I have to focus on our studies, my father is employed elsewhere far from home, and my mother has to regularly return to our native village, so our busy lifestyles have scattered us. However, the few times we have enjoyed the outdoors together, they’ve occurred because I needed to learn to ride a bike … again.
Cycling had allowed my parents to revert to the old days when their only source of transportation was either a bicycle or the bullock cart—and bikes were the more expensive of the two.
My parents have worked hard to provide us with everything unavailable to them during their childhood. What many children take for granted today would have remained an unfulfilled dream during their parents’ time.
Although they were an expensive dream in the olden days, my father bought me new shoes and a jacket when I started cycling. But today, my goal is to learn to successfully ride a bicycle. But so far, the only thing I’ve learned successfully is that my brother is a better teacher than my father, whose perfectionism and impatience made him a horrible cycling instructor. He would set an ‘example’ for me by taking the bicycle, saying, “Let me show you how it’s done.” Then, before we’d know it, he’d pedal away as my mother grumbled and shook her head, muttering, “When will he grow up?”
While my brother taught me to ride, my parents would sit in the distance and watch me, occasionally throwing in some motivating words. “You can do it!” my mother would shout, while my father would bark, “You can do better!” My brother would prod me and give me tips to balance the bicycle, how to push the bike into motion, how to start pedaling, etc. As a reward for my efforts, he’d let me cycle me all around the entire colony.
In reality, I still don’t know how to cycle. In my dreams, though, I am the best cyclist — the heroine — as I ride to my destination with a smile on my face, the blood rushing into my cheeks, and my heart dancing in sync with my pedaling legs.