I rode my bike for the first time in a long time today. I had books to return to the library and then I planned to head over to the pod-castle and visit with G'ma. I was prepared - had my helmet and backpack and garage door clicker and cell phone and water bottle - and my new bicycle pump was easy and pouffed those tires up to a nice firm roundness. I set off in the early afternoon sunshine, a slight breeze at my back, coasting down the hill and smiling. Crossed at the green, not in-between, and it was only when the road began its ascent that the fact that the only 2 gears available to me out of the 21 promised by the chains and the cogs on the derailleur and those clickers on the handlebars were impossible and who do you think you're kidding?
I heard Jillian Michaels screaming at me to finish the hill finish the hill finish the hill and I did. It took me a while to recover, and while I was resting by the side of the road I thought back to the last time I'd used my bike for a regular errand.
I must have been 11 or 12 or 13 when I began biking to the bakery early on Sunday mornings. I'd ride past my neighbors, the men outside doing yard work or car work or just bringing in the New York Times and Newsday and, as I passed, I took orders. I had a note pad from Woolworth's just like the waitresses at the Rainbow Diner and I gave each customer his carbon copy as a receipt.
I was working. I was independent. I was self-sufficient. I knew at the time that the men were impressed. Was it patronizing or was it real? It doesn't matter now. At that moment in time, I was a wage earner, just as they were. We were up early, doing the things that that wage earners do. It might have been their day off, but for me, it was just another workday. They expected me to come by, and I did. If they'd missed me the week before they were sorry. I was a part of their weekly routine.Getting there was half the fun. I always took the sneaky way, across the high school field and
across the footbridge and through the marshy area past scary, old Camp Algonquin and then twisting and turning down streets we'd never drive on but which made the perfect, most direct route to Lincoln Shopping Center and the bakery.
Some mornings it was cold and dark and sometimes it was rainy but as I cycled through the neighborhoods, with a purpose and a plan but in no particular hurry at all, I was alone and outside and it felt great. I feel that when I'm hiking now.
It was nice to be recognized as a regular, to have the 6 poppy seed rolls and a thin sliced rye with seeds go into the bag before I started to place the rest of my order. Other patrons were amused to see me stagger back to my bike with my spoils, but their smiles never bothered me. I'd stack the individual bags carefully in my basket and then I'd ride home.
I was useful. I was responsible to no one but myself and the job I had contracted to do. I had intersected with the world while most of its inhabitants were still snuggled under their covers, dreaming Sunday morning dreams.
I was pretty special.
And I wonder, now, 40+ years later, where that sense of accomplishment, of being at one with the world, of having nothing on my worry list except deciding which left turn to take.... I've been wondering where it's gone. When did I become so encumbered that my achievements all seem to have a but attached to their tails? Everything is so complicated for me now.
On the other hand, no way do I want to time-travel back to that space. Would you?