Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ashlee's Bicycle

“Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
'Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I'm on
Jesus, take the wheel”
--Carrie Underwood “Jesus, Take the Wheel”

My niece, Ashlee, is fiercely independent and almost pathologically shy. If I haven't visited in a couple months, it usually takes her an hour or so to warm up to me again. Starting a new school year is rather traumatic for her. Her mother, Diana, warns each new teacher of Ashlee's shyness; pleading for patience and understanding.

Once she warms up to you, Ashlee is as engaging and caring as you could possibly imagine. She loves to play pranks, especially on her mother. Diana has severe arachnophobia, a trait Ashlee does not share and loves to take advantage of. About once a month, she will place toy spiders and other plastic creepy-crawlies in her mother's bed, covered by the comforter. Once she hears the muffled scream of discovery, Ashlee giggles madly for at least the next half hour.

When she is riding with her mother in the family car or the big maroon Suburban (I call it the “'burban”), Ashlee loves to listen to Carrie Underwood, one of Diana's favorite singers.

One sunny summer morning, Ashlee told Diana, “Mom, I want to learn to ride my bike.”

“Okay,” said Diana. “When Dad gets home I'll have him put the training wheels on your bike and you can get started.”

“No,” said Ashlee. “I want to start now, without the training wheels.”

“Are you sure? Training wheels will keep you from crashing and getting hurt.”

“Yes, I'm sure.”

Diana followed Ashlee to the garage to get her bike, then down the driveway.

“Let's start on the sidewalk next to the lawn, so you have somewhere soft to land,” said Diana. “If you feel like you're going to crash, lean towards the lawn, okay?”

“Okay, Mom,” said Ashlee.

Diana held the bike steady, gripping under the seat as Ashlee climbed on. As Ashlee started pedaling, Diana began to jog behind her, maintaining her grip on the seat.

“Let go, Mom,” said Ashlee. “I can do it on my own.”

Diana let go and stopped, watching as Ashlee kept pedaling for another five or six feet.

The bike began to wobble and Ashlee, instinctively knowing she was going to crash, threw both hands in the air and called out, “Jesus! Take the wheel!”

The bicycle promptly fell over and Ashlee got her first scrape as the result of a bike accident.


refugee from reason said...

That's a sweet and nicely written piece, that brings back memories. Back in DC, in the early 70s, I bought my son a bike with training wheels, I suppose as all parents do.

We lived in the northwest suburban area of Washington, on hill. My son after appropriate practice, asked that the training wheels be removed, which I did.

As we lived on a hill, he was up and running fairly easily...however, I had forgotten the bike wasn't equipped with coaster brakes.

He went about 50 feet or so, stopping only when he ran into a neighbor bruising the neighbor's shins. The neighbor, a columnist for the Washington Post at the time and a friend of mine, used the injury as an excuse for "not having a thought for today's column." He (the neighbor) had great fun with it.

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