When I’m a Girl Again.

At this very moment I need to be an adult.

My bank has sold, and I’m required to set up new things with the new bank.  I have to pay some bills. I have to write a thank you note.  I have to get a stain out of white jeans.  Then I have to dress up and go out for a nice dinner at a nice place with other grownups where I’ll drink wine out of a stemmed wine glass.

But I’ll tell you something.  As soon as I’m done with it all, I’m going to be a girl again.

The years will fall away from me as I run up the stairs, pull on my cutoffs and my faded blue Chuck Taylors.  I’ll be fast, because daylight is fading–which is actually the only time Texas summers are tolerable.

Out the door.  Out the gate. And just like that, I’m twelve years old again.

Because I’m on my bike, and I’m about to make my getaway.

As soon as the breeze hits my face, I remember another place.  A street in a little town in New Mexico.  I remember Mama gave me some old keys, and how I inserted them into the end of the handlebar–into the hole where there used to be streamers–so my bike could become a car.  I rode up and down the sidewalks–riding and imagining. Probably talking to myself, too, because I was that kid. Sometimes I’d tie one of my arms up in a sling and ride with a pretend injury. I was a middle kid always looking for attention, I suppose.

Every kid growing up in the ’60s and ’70’s learned how to clothespin a playing card to the spokes so there was a wonderful “clicking” sound as we rode.

We were a fancy lot.

There surely were other bikes in my history, but the one etched in my memory is a chartreuse yellow banana-seat bike that Santa brought–matching bikes for my sister and me.  There were no gears to contend with.  When pedaling got hard, we just worked our legs harder.  When our tires refused to hold air no matter how much we pumped into them, Daddy was the mechanic of tires and slipped chains.

Over my growing-up years, bikes transported me anywhere I wanted to go in my little town. My parents were geniuses at balancing their fear for my safety with the gift of freedom to explore my world.

I’d call up a friend–usually Maurie Beth–who would meet me somewhere in the middle, and we’d ride.  And ride and ride. The only rule I remember was no riding on the highway.  Sometimes my friends and I would ride to the convenience store to buy Coca Cola Icees.  Then we’d head to the park, temporarily abandoning our bikes, to lie in the cool grass under a big tree in the park.  We’d talk about all the things that made our world go ’round–a world that began and ended in a West Texas oil town were five thousand people lived.  Our bikes gave us access to every square inch of it.

Once I found myself grounded from my bike–it was the day before Mother’s Day and I was without a gift for mine.  My only option, it seemed, was to sneak out while Mama visited with a friend in the kitchen, ride to the grocery store, and buy her a pitcher made of gaudy iridescent carnival glass.  I’m certain she knew of my breach, though she pretended she didn’t.  To this day, that pitcher is her iced tea pitcher.

In my life I’ve ridden bikes in many places–among them, an island with one road down the middle paved with crushed seashells, shaded by giant live oaks dripping in Spanish moss.  And in a country where blackberries grow wild along the paths and are free for the picking.

It isn’t a matter of “where,” though.  It’s simply the freedom to ride.  Anywhere.  And it doesn’t matter if the bike is a souped up racing version or a simple cruiser.  These days, I opt for the latter, with three gears because I find I’m in no hurry to be anywhere. In fact, I’m looking to stretch the days out as long as they can be.

Today, as in most ordinary days, I’ll ride on a narrow path across a narrow bridge, just scary enough to make it fun.  I’ll cross over a river and back again.  Then I’ll ride to the end of Luce Street, knowing somewhere in the middle, near my friend Vivian’s house, there’s a bit of a hill where I’ll have to gear down or pump hard.  I know I’ll have to maneuver around a few potholes, too, when I’m on the downhill stretch and going a little faster than I ought.  In my head, I’ll  hear the voices of a few certain friends cautioning me about broken bones.

In my mind, I’ll thank them for caring, and then, with great intention,  I’ll take my feet off the pedals, stretch out my legs and fly like the wind.

Because I know, no matter what, as long as my feet can pedal and my lungs can move air, I will ride just because I can!   It’s when I’m most fully engaged in life, aware and thankful for the gifting.  I’m aware of the beauty of everything God created and I’m amazed at how intricately it all works together. On a bike, life moves slowly by, so I can take it all in.  When I’m riding my bike, mind and imagination are full throttle, firing on all cylinders.  It’s when I grasp the truth in St. Irenaeus’ words…the glory of God is man fully alive–every fear, doubt and anger leaves me and all that’s left is gratitude so immense it almost hurts. I feel God’s pleasure in me in those moments and I wish for a million more of them.

All this hoopla over a silly bike?   Yeah.  I guess so.

I know the same thing happens to other people in other ways.

For me, though, it will always happen on a bike.