Our story begins with a young version of myself. Six year old me looked a lot like me, but she was one of the tallest kids in her first grade class. Also differentiating us, where I am an experienced rider of bikes, six year old me had only just learned the art.
One hot summer day, my dear older brother proposed we go on a bike ride. He approached and asked, nonchalantly, “Hey, want to ride bikes?”
I was quite proud of myself for having learned, so, naturally, I replied, “Yeah, sure!”
Older Brother than suggested that we ride our bikes to the school, a solid ten minute walk and five minute bike ride from our house. I agreed, because it wasn’t as if I had a better destination in mind.
We strapped on our helmets–safety first, as always, with us–and mounted our trusty bikes, ready for our expedition to the school, which had just closed for the summer.
For you to fully understand what will take place in the next chapter of this narrative, I will give you a brief and simple outline of the terrain this bike ride would cover. From our driveway, it was downhill, a slight left, uphill, downhill, up a very steep hill, and then down one more hill, before riding down the fourth, final, monstrous hill of doom–at least, that was how it seemed to six year old me.
The first six steps of this seven-step route went relatively well, even if I couldn’t quite ride all the way to the top of the very steep hill. Older Brother ping-ponged between encouragement and exasperation at my less-than-record-setting pace.
Finally, we neared the final hill; the Big Kahuna. The, as it seemed to six year old me, cliff that would lead to my demise. I pulled up five feet shy of the hill.
“I can’t go down that.”
Older Brother turned around and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, you can. Look, it’s easy.” He took off down the hill, easily applying the brakes at the right speed and frequency, something he had mastered with his several years’ more life experience, until he safely reached the bottom of the hill.
I hesitated a moment more before setting my teeth and my resolve to ride down the hill, Older Brother’a exasperated attempts at encouragement reaching my ears. If he could do it, so could I–I wasn’t about to let him best me, after all!
I pushed off with my right foot. At first, I was rolling slowly. Then, I began to move faster–and faster, and faster, and faster! I began to panic. This was too fast! I wasn’t prepared to die, I had to at least make it to my seventh birthday.
In my panic, I raised both of my hands, waving them in alarm, and began to scream. Miraculously, I kept my balance–I still don’t know how I managed, given I still can’t ride with no hands to this day.
As I zipped past him, I became vaguely aware that Older Brother was shouting something, but I couldn’t hear what. Then I realized; he was telling me to turn. Turn the bike. Wait, why should I turn the bike?
It hit me like a wall of concrete–mostly because it was a wall of concrete. I had run into the exterior wall of the school.
Oh. So, that’s why I needed to turn the bike.
I got up, brushing myself off. Older Brother, realizing I was okay, began to laugh at the mental image of me waving my arms and screaming that was still playing in his head. I laughed with him, mostly out of relief that I had just survived what I was sure was going to be instant death.
Since then, though, I’m sure you’I’ll be relieved to hear, I have, in fact, learned how to steer and brake.