Do you remember what it felt like to ride your bike all over without anyone knowing where you were? It meant freedom, it meant being independent, it meant being the ruler of your own universe. To feel the wind in your hair and the street under your wheels, and you could twist or turn any which way you wanted. It was the moment in time when you realized you could handle things , make your own decisions, and you were accountable for your own actions. It was the beginning of the transition from childhood through youth into adulthood.
When I saw this bicycle in an antique store it reminded me of all these things and more. I thought about the pack of kids riding around the neighborhood playing newspaper tag until it was dark. I remember learning to ride without any hands and going as fast as I could down the steep hills. I remember what it felt like to be at the back of the pack, the slowest one because my legs were shorter, and being left in the dust as the big kids rode away. And I remember how ‘big’ I felt when my brothers and their friends would include me in the game, simply because if I was included the teams were even.
I remember skinned knees and being covered in dirt. I remember being proud of a new bike, or a new banana seat. I felt all grown up…all that and a bag of chips! Your bike meant freedom, It meant riding to school and getting there on time. It meant not leaving it parked in the yard, or forgetting to lock it up at after school events. Your bike meant you were trusted and expectations were understood; it meant time was yours to do with what you wanted as long as you were home by dark.
Times have changed, the children in my old neighborhood don’t ride their bike to school anymore without an adult. They don’t play in packs on the streets or leave their bikes mounded in the yard while playing inside someone’s house. They always have an adult around, which makes me wonder how they are learning to be adults? How are they figuring out how to handle freedom, and conflict, and being left out? How do they manage time and responsibility to get there on time? And how to handle themselves when their parents are not around.
The world is a different place, not always for the better. Our desire for progress and technology and a better life has left our children busy, scheduled, dependent and struggling to find out how they will navigate the world in which they live. They don’t know the freedom of riding a bike with a banana seat across the neighborhood with no one watching. Danger and fear have robbed them of the freedom to wipe out, pick themselves up, dust off the dirt and ride hard to catch up with the group. Time without technology is more important than time with it. The lessons I learned from the freedom of a banana seat taught me more than I think I could have learned from any device.