Learning to Ride – or Not: A Permanent ineptitude With Regard to Two Wheels
Angela Lansbury astride her bicycle in Murder She Wrote. Source: Stills, Episode 4, School For Scandal; murdershewrotestills.tumblr.com/
I like watching British dramas on television. I enjoy some American programs too, but am enamored of the gorgeous landscapes of England, the lilt of the accents, and the general character types that center the stories. I also am unwillingly teased by my admiration of the way everyone — everyone — rides bicycles.
More than half way through my fifth decade, I had to give up my dream of some time being able to ride a bike. When I admit this, the expressions of the listeners vary from incredulity to guffaws.
The first excuse I offer is my place of origin: the lower east side of Manhattan. As a child, I never had a bicycle. Add to that the fact that from the age of six through the age of fourteen, I spent eight weeks every summer at camp in the Green Mountains of Vermont. No bikes there; hikes daily, but no bikes.
Very early in our marriage, my husband and I opted for country living. As our children came along, so did bicycles. We had an unpaved but relatively level driveway, and there we taught our young to fly along on two wheels by running nimbly along behind them and holding on. I would try to learn too. I inevitably landed on one knee when I fell off, and three bouts of having to have the resulting puffed joint drained discouraged my efforts. I just gave up.
I learned to swim at six. I learned to ride horses by the time I was seven, even won a couple of blue ribbons for equitation, passed my lifesaving tests and had some medals for swimming. Handling a canoe, executing a jack-knife from a springboard, target shooting with a longbow or a .22 rifle came fairly easily to me, but I never learned to turn a cartwheel and I never learned to ride a bike.
There must be much more important things I've never learned, though most that I care about aren't physical accomplishments, but none rise like hives on my memories the way this permanent ineptitude with regard to two wheels itches. My inability to retain new names, my blind spots about some jokes, my basic disinterest over politicians and celebrities, and my hopeless relationship with mathematics all have receded to the back of my mind and settled there. I'm used to them. But not being able to ride ...
How I envy all those little old ladies in small English towns — and Angela Lansbury spinning along!
Editor's Note: A bicycle from the Netherlands
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