Ready for Blast-Off
If my big brother doesn’t need to use training wheels, then I don’t need too, either, is what raced through my five-year-old mind. My navy-blue bicycle, with streaks of animated fire and the word ‘Rocket’ emblazoned across it, waited for me in the garage.
I grabbed my pink Disney princess knee and elbow pads and strapped the purple Velcro around my scrawny arms and knees. Then, I rushed to our green garage door, with my helmet, which fit snugly on my head, hanging on my handlebars. I wheeled my de-training-wheeled bicycle out into the open.
My mom waited by the driveway and smiled brilliantly in the summer sun. Her dark blonde hair was shaded by her pink fabric sunhat and her cheeks by her bronze-rimmed sunglasses. We walked down to Willow Creek Park, which was at the bottom of a huge hill.
At the start of the concrete trail, my mom steadied my bike as I swung my leg over to the other side.
“Place your feet on the pedals,” she instructed. “Don’t worry, I’m here, and I’ll steady you.”
I pedaled like normal, and it felt like I still had the training wheels attached. I grinned, thinking that I had already mastered the art of big kid cycling. Sensing my confidence, my mom released her gentle hold on my shoulders. Suddenly, my bike swiveled wildly. My tiny fingers gripped the handlebars as if my life depended on it. Terrified, I quickly planted my feet, stopping immediately.
It took some coaxing to get me to try again. However, it was a cyclical pattern: steadiness, overconfidence, swiveling out of control, and planting my feet onto the gravel underneath, terrified.
“Don’t let go!” I pleaded.
“If I don’t, how will you ever learn to ride?” she tried to reason.
“I’ll learn later,” I answered in a matter-of-fact tone.
My mom frowned at my retort. She steadied me once more. After taking a deep breath, I began pedaling again.
After a while, I noticed that she was becoming impatient. I didn’t want her to be angry with me, so I told her, “I’ll try harder tomorrow.” She gave me an absent nod.
We walked the rest of the trail loop. I held one of the handlebars as my mom strode beside me. To avoid awkwardness, I remember sharing jokes and telling stories. This brought a smile to her face and made her laugh, which made me feel very accomplished. In my mind, it was equivalent to the prestige of a Nobel prize. It was never hard to make her laugh, in reality, but I still enjoyed the thrill of sharing my jokes with her.
Upon returning home, I parked my bike in the garage and hung my helmet on the handlebars. As I reached to close the garage door behind me, I looked back into the darkness, and a frown settled onto my usually optimistic features. Why? Because I wasn’t a ‘cool, big kid.’ I still didn’t know how to ride without an aide – whether training wheels or my mom holding my shoulders.
The word ‘Rocket’ glowed across the bike’s top tube. As I stared, I slowly regained my confidence: Tomorrow, I’m going to bike so fast, like a rocket ready for blast off! I spun around, closed the green garage door, and skipped up the steps to the house.
The next morning, I threw off my thin, smiley-faced blanket and quickly dressed. I gobbled down a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal with a glass of chocolate milk and rushed to pick up my elbow and knee pads.
“Let’s go!” I shouted from the doorway.
My mom was still drinking her morning coffee. “Wait a sec; I need to finish,” she answered with no intent of getting out of her chair until she was done.
I trudged back to the dining room and plopped onto my seat next to her. And waited.
If there’s a record for how fast a person can drink a hot beverage, my mom would definitely beat it. It still bewilders me how quickly she drinks scalding beverages and still does not burn off her tastebuds.
“You can get your bike out. I’m right behind you.”
I jumped out of my seat and rushed to the garage. By the time I walked out with my Disney helmet on my head and holding my bike with one hand, my mom was at the foot of the stairs leading to the house. Once again, we walked down to Willow Creek Park. At the start of the trail, she steadied my bike, and I hopped on.
“Like a rocket,” I whispered to myself.
Once I was steadily pumping my legs, my mom let go of my shoulders, and … and … and … swivel. My feet planted on the concrete. Terror. Frustration.
How was this possible? Did I really not progress at all?
“Let’s try again,” my mom offered in a gentle voice after seeing my frustration.
But, it kept happening. Over, and over, and over again!
“Come on,” I heard her mumble under her breath. The irritation in her voice drowned me in self-doubt. When she reached out to steady me again, her grip was rougher. “This is the last time for today,” she told me.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. My fingers tingled with sweat as I readjusted my hold. I lifted my left foot and placed it on the pedal. Then, the same with my right foot. I’ve got this!
I began to pedal, my mom let go, and zoom! I kept going. There was no swiveling, my balance was on point, and the fresh, warm morning air brushed past me.
“Come back!” I heard my mom shout. I kept pedaling onward. Only when I realized that I couldn’t see her anymore did I decide to turn around. As I made my return arc, I grinned at my abilities.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said lovingly as I rode up.
With a huge smile, I nodded, “I know.”
She then gave me a checkpoint to reach that was still within her field of vision. I spotted the gigantic looming bush, far off in the distance, and nodded. I pushed my feet off the ground:
Rocket ready for blast off.