On this humid Louisiana Sunday afternoon, I am riding my bike up and down the street. I love riding my bike. I get everywhere I want to go faster and I can actually keep up with the other kids. My cousin arrives and we glide down the hill and pump back up. We are racing on the street and ride through puddles in the salt mine parking lot. I practically live on my bike.
My cousin, Shane is my buddy although I am three years older. I love to be with him because he includes me in everything. We have a good time laughing and goofing off. I can count on him to defend me when a kid decides to be mean to me and he knows I do the same for him.
We are riding down the hill. When we reach the bottom we see the train and start to race it screaming and flailing our arms for the conductor's attention Finally, the conductor waves at us and motions with his hand for us to stop. We stop and he throws wrapped bubble gum, peanut butter bars and Sweet tarts. We rush and pick them all up and we wave at the man and yell, “Thanks.” He salutes and puts the train forward and moves on. We watch the train cars go by and count them after guessing how many they will be. Shane wins with 20 being closer to my 15. There are actually 23. We divide the candy evenly, put them in our pockets and get back on our bikes. (Great Detail)
We ride up the hill laughing and talking about nothing. As we get to the top of the hill, wiping our sweat onto our sleeves we hear my dad's whistle. His whistle is one of those shrilled types. It certainly grabs our attention. When we turn we see my mom at the end of our family's yard with a can of Dr. Pepper and 2 plastic cups. We press our brakes and slide as we get to my mom. She serves each of us a cup of Dr. Pepper. “Thanks Mom” I say. “Thanks Nanny,” Shane adds.
We ride off for at least the hundredth time today with the cups in our hands. After a short distance, Shane comments, “I can't drink and ride. Let's take a break.”
I sigh and think “Wuss.” But the thought occurs to me that it is easier for myself because I don't have to balance as I have training wheels.
So we jump off our bikes and sit in our neighbor's yard. We live on a 3 mile salt dome named Avery Island. It's a combination of tourist attraction with the Tabasco Factory, Jungle Gardens and the International Salt Mine as well as residential homes.. It is like a secluded village with our own post office, grocery store and elementary school. Every parent looks after each others kids. We are allowed to go in anyone's yard whether they are home or not. We are safe. (Setting! The good old days!)
The families who live on the island and the nonresidents who are allowed on the island to work know there are kids riding bikes and playing in the road. I see them come up slowly looking out for us. I hurriedly get to the grass when I hear a car rumbling ascending the hill. Sometimes I do not pay attention and forget. However, when I forget I never get hit because they patiently wait until I am out of the way. . I in turn wait when I hear the whistle at the end of the day for the workers. I park my bike on the side of wherever I may be and watch and wave as the workers drive off to their own families. They all wave back smiling. Some even shout out the window, “Hello!.” or “Be Good!” I seemed to be the one they know the best because they seem to go a lot slower and yell, “Hey Little Kermit” or “Hey Little George” because they know who my father is. I suspect my father has warned them that I am this daughter on the bike with training wheels
There are also visitors driving through and we love to count how many countries and states they are from. We wave at them too. Sometimes we follow their cars around until they turn around and and go back down hill, We take note of what kind of car they have and where they are from by the license plate. Some even stop and talk to us. It is awesome to hear their different accents.
We are resting with our bikes on the side of us sipping our Dr. Peppers. Shane has a black souped up Motor cross bike. My bike is a hand-me-down blue Schwinn girls bike from my sister because my parents have recently graduated me from my big red tricycle. They think 13 years old is too old for a tricycle no matter how big it is. They have been told because of my Cerebral Palsy I don't have the balance to ride a bike without training wheels.
When our cups are empty, Shane runs and gets the can. As we refill our cups, we gossip, tell jokes and goof around. I pick through the clovers looking for the lucky four leaf clover.
Suddenly, Shane asks, “Why haven't you tried riding a bike with no training wheels?”
I laugh, “Because I will fall.”
He counters, “Why? You play football and baseball with us fall sometimes too but you get
“Well, gee! Shane! Everyone make exceptions for me. You give new rules when I play.”
He knows I am right as he nods deep in thought. I wonder what is with him today.
Suddenly, he grabs my arm and he looks at me with conviction, “Let me help you ride a two-wheel bike!”
I jerk from his grasp and adamantly say, “No! I can't.!”
Shane challenges, “Your mom says can't is not in your vocabulary.”
He implores, “Come on!. Get on the bike. I'll hold the back of it and run while you pedal.”
I try to come up with another excuse but none come. I sigh deeply feeling defeated
We go back and forth with him trying to convince me. I flood him with questions and excuses, “Okay, but how do l get on without training wheels? I can't put my leg over the back like you do! I know I'll fall. When I stop I can't touch the ground so how am I going to hold myself up? You don't understand. How do I get coordination with my cerebral palsy?
He ponders for a second and pleads, “Trust me, Lisa.” I sigh and say “Shane! Don't get your hopes up. Okay? He nods feverishly, “I promise I won't. Just try.”
He helps me up to my feet. We each kick a training wheel up off the ground.
I am feeling anxious and apprehensive. I am scared. What if I fail? I will disappoint my best cousin who believes in me.
He is holding the bike. The bike looks like a big blue monster on two wheels. I walk to the right side of it. As instructed, I hold onto the handlebars. I lift my right spastic leg with my hand and lay it on the bars. Letting go I then slide my leg to the other side. I am standing up with the bars between my legs. I am feel Shane holding tightly to the back bar of the bike keeping it steady.
He coaxes with a near whisper, “Come on. You can do it,” like if he said it aloud he would jinx us.
I squeeze the handlebars, put my feet on the pedals and push my rear onto the seat.
With a sigh of relief Shane exclaims, “Yes! You can do this!”
After a few moments of silence he questions if I am ready. I am terrified but I nod my head. He starts slowly pushing me and I start pedaling. We go five feet., I feel him let go, the bike turns sharply to the right and I fall on the hot hard asphalt.
He runs to me concern and asks, “Are you okay?.” When we find no major injuries he excitedly announces that I was doing it. I am not convinced. I am not sure how long I will let this go on until I tell him it is no use. However, in order not to let him down I smile and grudgingly get up and get back on the bike. He instructs to keep the handlebars straight and don't worry. He reassures he will help me accomplish this.
Instead of him pushing, he suggest to start pedaling and he'll just hold me up. I think that is a better plan. So I push off clumsily with one foot and I am pedaling. I make sure the handlebars are straight. Shane is yelling, “There you go! Keep on! I am still holding you! Don't panic! I got you!” He is running along as I pedal, confidence is building and I start to laugh and have fun. He suddenly lets go and I keep going another 15 feet then I don't know what happens. The bike tumbles and I am tangled in the bike.
He comes running, shouting, and jumping excited, Helping me getting untangled, he is blabbing. “Yes! You are getting it! I told you! Come on! Let's do it again!”
I am getting excited. The impossible may be possible! I get on the bike like the last two times. We repeat. I start pedaling with him holding the back bar. I don't know when he lets go but before I know it I am half down the road and I realize, “I'm riding a bike! Heck yea!
I look back and Shane is running to catch up with me. His shouts of excitement echo as loud as the sound of the blasting salt below. .We are both laughing. I finally fall landing in my yard. but not due to lack of coordination or steering. I fall because I am so happy I can't contain myself. I get up as Shane reaches me and we hug jumping up and down. “We did it!”.
He grabs my hand and we run to my house.We stomp onto the porch of my old white two bedroom house like a herd of angry galloping horses. We are so excited we're babbling. I'm near crying of pure happiness.My mom and dad can't understand. They think one of us is hurt. But I'm flailing my hands in the air trying to calm down to tell them. Shane finally catches his breath and tells them that I know how to ride a bike. They congratulate us, laugh and smile. My dad comes outside and we watch him remove the training wheels. As I see the wheels being removed I feel a sense of freedom.
The minute my dad is finished, we hop onto our bikes and I don't feel different any more. I ride up hills and down hills. We ride from the mine to the Tango, even crossing the cattle guard without getting stuck.
We ride our bike until my dad blows his whistle when its been dark at least an hour. I go inside bubbly and can't stop talking during supper. My mom and dad praises me. I can see their joy and pride in their faces. At bed time my mom reminds me that I have my six month check up with Dr. Brown. I'm not so happy at first. Then my mom reminds me that I can tell Dr. Brown of my accomplishment and asks how did I think he would feel. I fall asleep early thinking of my day and excited that I get to tell Dr. Brown.
I am up early without mom telling me to get up. I ask her if I can go ride my bike. She sighs and says, “Okay once to the mine and right back.” I run outside, jump onto my bike and ride. I just need that ride to show me it wasn't a dream. I come back in the house and eat breakfast.
We make our way to the Crippled Children Clinic. I play with the other kids as we endure the 2 hour delay. It is normal for him to be late. Dr. Brown is an extraordinary, kind, intelligent and dedicated orthopedist who flies from New Orleans every six months to see us with no payment expected. He is middle aged, wears bifocals and like us, walks with a limp. He sometimes uses a cane. He once told me that he had Polio as a child.
Finally the Pink Lady calls my name and my mom and I walk to the back. I tell all the regular workers hi as we walk down the hall. They direct us to a room that is like a miniature cubbyhole. I impatiently wait for Dr. Brown.
He finally walks in with a entourage of nurses and people I have no idea who they are. They just smile. My mom tells me every time that they are students and researchers when I whine how embarrassing it is to walk down the middle of a room with only panties.
He immediately boasts, “Hey Sunshine! How are you? I am giddy and can't speak. He continues with his routine of explaining my history to the slew of people as he maneuvers my lower limbs and checks my reflexes with the despicable reflex hammer. After he finishes the exam he gives me his hand helping me off the table. I am just bursting with excitement as I spastic ally walk to the entrance of the dreadful catwalk. Sensing I am about to burst out of my skin, my mom finally interrupts him politely and tells him I have something to tell him .
He looks at me interestingly and I blurt out, “I can ride a bike!”
He looks at me questioningly then eyes my mom for confirmation. My mom nods and says, “You heard her. She can ride a two-wheel bicycle.” He asks me to explain in detail how I learned. Throughout my story about my exciting day yesterday he is shaking his head in disbelief, and wonderment, smiling and I think I see a tear flow from his eyes. I wonder silently why is he crying.
After I finish telling him, all is quiet. I look around. Some are whispering to each other. Some are just smiling and winks at me. I turn to my mom and she is blowing her nose in a tissue . I think everyone must have a cold. He intensely studies me for a few moments. I am nervous all of a sudden. He then speaks with a clear voice of excitement, “That is so wonderful Sunshine! I am so happy and proud of you. I knew you were special.” I look at him astonishingly. He continues, “You have to understand, you are one in a million of CP kids who can ride a bike. You have such perseverance and I always knew you could master things others couldn't imagine. You have the drive to do anything you want. Remember that. Now come and give me a hug.” I walk towards him and he reaches for me as I stumble nervously. He pulls me to him and hugs me tightly. My arms are too small to wrap around his broad shoulders but I rub his back I realize that this is the first time we hug.
After a moment, he turns me around towards the observers and places his hands on my shoulders. He looks at the observers and commands, “Again, remember this! No matter how hopeless the child may seem everyone deserves a chance to meet their potential. We don't know of many kids with CP that accomplishes riding a two wheeler but there is always that one to show how they can rise above their limitations. There is always hope.” He pauses then squeezes my shoulders harder and says, “Sunshine is a prime example.” l stand naked shamelessly with only my panties with as much pride as a marathon runner crossing the finish line!
My professor's other comments were:
Excellent usage of "local color.">Avery Island, salt mine, etc.
Love the humor!
This piece takes me to my childhood experience of riding bikes---happy memories!
Your work shows that you work from the heart!
Keep up your writing skills. I can tell that you enjoy writing. You could continue writing to eventually pursue publication.
Good usage of dialogue. Love the childhood play!
Thanks for sharing your work! And for sharing your outstanding way to show learning experiences from personal experiences.
Incredible way to end your story.
I think she is one of the best Instructors I've had.
Thanks for reading and comment (I can take negative criticism well, promise!)