09 June 2013

The summer before I started school my father came home one Thursday evening and told me that if I could figure out how to ride a bicycle by Saturday morning, we would go into town together and buy one for me. If not, there was no way I could start school after the summer.

It all worked out in the end. I spent the next day begging the older kids to let me have a go and at some time during the afternoon I was cycling along the edge of a muggy carp pond with a gang of kids running beside me, my sister one of them, terrified that I'd fall and drown while on her watch. Worse, that I could damage the bicycle. We were way outside our permitted area. Miles from home as we often were but falling into a slimy pond would have meant real trouble.

There are different directions here for my memory. 

The way my parents set us a task, a challenge and watch - or not even watch - us figuring it out and often enough, fail. A friend once called this the brick wall parenting. The glee and open disappointment when we slipped, missed the right note, fell off the horse, lost a match, when our grades dropped, our teenage skin developed acne, our light blond hair turned darker. 

But there is also the wild secret freedom when you have to learn early on how to look out for yourself, how to hide the worst and hope to somehow be able to sneak inside without them noticing the dirty dungarees, torn sandals, cigarettes on your breath, trashy mascara, cut-off jeans, lousy school report, illegal substances in your back pocket, that big messy wave of your youth, so infuriatingly different and completely useless.

It also is the memory of my first bicycle. I have been cycling ever since, almost daily. But that is another story.

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