A family member sent me the words to “On Top of Spaghetti” (#74) after I posted my dream list and attached this message to the song – “1 down, 99 to go”.

I’ve decided to try to make some headway on #26 and #33.  I found a skipping rope and took it out of its package.  It’s made of plastic and still sort of in the shape of the package it was in.  I can kind of skip with it but it will be a lot easier to use when the kinks work themselves out.  #26 was to be able to bike for an hour or more.  I haven’t hauled my bicycle out of the garage and tried to get started in the winter.  That would be ludicrous.  I’m starting on a stationary bike.  More about that later.

I was laying in bed last night thinking about how I got to the point that I can no longer bike for any amount of time.  I wasn’t always like that.  I grew up in the countryside in a family with four children.  I have a brother who is 10 years older than a me, a sister who is 9 years my senior and a brother who is 366 days younger than I am.  My parents always got used bikes for my older siblings and when they outgrew them put them away in storage for my younger brother and I.  We always had bicycles.  I can still remember when “new” bikes were being unearthed for us.  Our first job was to run and get  some steel wool to clean the old beaters up.  We went to it with a will and happily rode those bikes all the live long day.  That was in another age when kids could be outside all day biking and fishing and playing in the woods and the creek and no one worried about them.

When I was 12, I started babysitting.  I saved my hard earned cash and bought a brand new 10-speed bicycle from Canadian Tire.  It wasn’t a very wise purchase considering the sort of terrain I rode on but I loved that bike.  We were a one car family.  My dad took the car to work each day and my mom couldn’t drive so that bike was my ticket to freedom.  I rode it a lot.

My 10-speed came with me when I moved to Ottawa to attend university.  My enthusiasm for riding it waned when I nearly got hit by a city bus.  That’s when I switched to walking everywhere.  It took longer but it was safer.

The bike stayed with me when I got married.  I always intended to get back to riding it.  By then, it was another old beater.  Amazingly, one evening it got stolen right out of our back yard.  I didn’t even think to lock it up.   Whoever took it must have been awfully needy.

I never bought another bike.  I had kids and was busy and never thought much about bicycling.  That changed as my boys got older and my father-in-law lay dying of cancer.  He had a bike that he wanted to give away.  His remaining sons weren’t interested as they already had new bicycles of their own.  I was happy to receive his gift and he was happy to give it to me.  I had visions of getting the boys able to ride bikes and all of us doing family bicycle rides together.  Hah!

I did teach the boys to ride bikes.  They had their own old beaters found at garage sales.  The time finally came for that idyllic family bike ride I had envisioned years before.  Words can hardly describe how horrible that first trip was.  My boys took one look at each other, something telepathic must have happened between them and the race was on.  They took off like pint sized demons completely oblivious to everything except being in the lead.  I followed huffing and puffing and yelling at the top of my lungs, “STOP!”.  They were very focused on winning and not at all listening to their dying mother’s instructions.  Off they flew through an intersection without even glancing.  To say I was furious is an understatement.   Amazingly no one died on that first bike trip and both boys survived the aftermath of a fuming and scared mama.  Needless to say, we were not off to a good start with biking.

Some time elapsed (and some detailed instruction) before we tried bicycling together again.  I’d like to say attempt # 2 was better but it wasn’t.  We marked out our path and started out only to have boy#1’s bicycle chain fall off.  No problem.  Mechanic mom came to the rescue and off we went again.  The chain came off again.  Mechanic mom got her hands dirty again and we set out once more.  I was determined to make this work.  By about the fourth episode with the chain, I was getting seriously frustrated.  We never finished our intended route.  We went home.  My hands were stained black and green from repeated chain fixings and grass wipings and I found myself pushing my bike and half carrying, half dragging my son’s bike along.  Boy #1 followed on foot behind me sniffling and fussing  which didn’t help my mood overly.  Boy #2 was remarkably good.   I don’t doubt that one look at my face and the smoke that was surely coming out of my ears told him that I was a mama he didn’t want to reckon with.

Much time passed before I ventured out on attempt #3 with the boys.  I really thought that this time things would be better.  Hah!  Silly deluded mother!  We were only bicycling to the Sport’s Centre for swimming lessons.  We carefully crossed the road and for a big stretch there were no intersections to cross.  This time the boys asked me if they could race to  a certain point.  They were old enough for me to realize that there was no point in trying to squash their competitive spirits.  Little boys and winning go hand in hand.  I said, “Yes”.  It’s hard for me to write that because it wasn’t long after that little word that disaster happened.  The boys took off and it was a “no holds barred” sort of race.  Boy #1 forced boy#2 off the sidewalk and onto the grass.  Praise God it was grass!  Boy#2 did a very dramatic wipe out that this mama can still see happening in slow motion.  His bike came to a stop but he didn’t.  He flew over the handlebars and landed on his stomach with a whump followed by a scream.  Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt badly and we were close to our destination.  His stomach was scratched up and bleeding. Somehow I morphed into supermom at that moment and pushed an adult bike, hauled a kid’s bike and carried and comforted a crying and bleeding son while supervising another somewhat traumatized son to safely cross the road with me.  We made it to the Sport’s Centre and the lifeguards did a good job of patching boy #2 up.  There was nothing they could do for mama.  Her biking days came to a grinding halt following that episode.

By now my father-in-law’s bike is an old beater.  This spring I expect to revisit my childhood and clean it off with some steel wool and some elbow grease.  It will likely need a tune-up as well as I won’t be able to outgrow this one and haul out another one I already have in storage.   To get ready for it I’m practising on another old beater.

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DA and I found this granny on the side of the road with that magical word “FREE” on it.  We scooped it up and it’s now in the guest bedroom.  It’s got some mileage on it

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the tension knob is missing

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and the seat won’t stay in any other position except the lowest it can go.  It’s a very old beater.  Maybe that’s why it seems just right for me.  I’m going to work out on it and I’m going to get the old bike working and before you know it I’ll be fulfilling a dream and bicycling for an hour or more.  If you’re wondering if I’m going to take my sons along for the ride, I can already tell you the answer is “NO”.   At least not for the first little while.  First, I have to get good enough to keep up with them so that if I do have to yell anything at them they’ll at least be within ear shot to hear me.  Little boys grow into bigger boys but their over-riding competitive spirits don’t change much.  They still want to win and I don’t think they’ll care too much if I accomplish #26 or not.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t word this dream as “Take an idyllic bike ride with my family”.

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