We moved a lot as kids, so I often remember things relative to where we were living at the time. I learned to ride a two-wheeler during the one stint when we moved out of Kearny, NJ, to what was then rural Pompton Plains. Our rural odyssey didn’t last long, because it meant my father came home from DuPont in Kearny on the train, and not until about 7pm. Having to care for us on her own all that extra time didn’t suit my mother, and we soon moved back. I liked Pompton Plains, because our big yard had an old chicken coop that we used as a clubhouse.
It was the summer between first grade and second, I believe. Our small brick house was on a paved road, no sidewalks but little traffic, great for bike riding. I was on a heavy Schwinn bike with fat tires, no gears or anything, no helmet or bike gloves, wearing shorts. I’m not sure I even had shoes on. My father took me out, and said he’d hold the seat and run alongside me until I got my balance. We started out, and far sooner than I expected I sensed he had fallen off — he was an athlete in college but by then he was out of shape and smoked. I turned quickly to look, and he had. I kept going, kinda wobbly but staying upright. I knew how to push the pedals to stop, but wasn’t very good at turning around, so I went a long way before I gave it a shot. Eventually I made it back to the house, where my father was awaiting me with a big grin.
When Archie clamored to ride his new bike, I pressed him to put long pants on. I had bought him a new helmet when we picked up the bike; the technology has progressed a lot and the helmet has a shark emblem on the outside and concussion protection inside. I bought him bike gloves. He’s a daredevil already, and I felt infinitely more protective than my father did with me — a tendency I have to curb.
Riding a bike is liberating for a kid, and I’m a bit dazzled that Archie has mastered the skill already. Go, Little Man.