Bonnie and My Bike Ride

Well, it started the way these things usually started. Someone hollered “…let’s ride bike’s…”, and instantly, kids scattered to the four corners to retrieve their bicycles.

Now, though subtle, there is a difference between “riding your bicycle”, and “ridin’ bike’s”. Riding your bicycle, is about getting from point A, to point B. When you’re “ridin’ bike’s”, however, it is an outdoor celebration of how much fun it is to ride a bicycle.

This day was for celebrating.

Bonnie, my oldest sister, was the first to return, so she casually rode her bike around while waiting on the others. Bonnie was a few years older than the rest of the kids. Old enough to be a babysitter for most. But Bonnie was in the prime of her bike riding years, and was unwilling to pass up a good bike ride, no matter how young her riding companions might be.

It wasn’t very long before everyone returned on their bikes with no two alike, and just naturally fell in line one after the other behind Bonnie. It was a bicycle version of follow-the-leader. Bonnie kept it casual. She would weave in and out of the white lines down the center of the road, or duck beneath low hanging branches and what-not, as her happy little ducklings gleefully followed her lead.

Bonnie was enjoying herself more than anyone. You could tell by the smile on her face, her hair in the wind, and the uncanny way she could blow bubbles while riding, and somehow not get gum on her face. It was impressive. Most of all she enjoyed everyone else, enjoying themselves. She liked to hear everyone laughing and squealing at every little thing. She liked to see their eyes light up when they did a trick, or tried something they may not have tried before. It made her happy.

After awhile, Bonnie noticed me watching everyone from our driveway. She coasted over, but didn’t say anything for a long time. She just stood there straddling her bike, and looking down at me like she was trying to figure something out.

Bonnie understood that her little brother had polio. She knew that it meant I couldn’t walk, and that I would have to wear crutches and braces the rest of my life. On this day though, it was hitting her hard how unfair it was. The joy of her ride drained from her face, as it dawned on her that I would never get to do that.

Though I was completely in the dark about what was happening, my big sister was about to pick a fight with polio. Maybe she couldn’t change the fact that I would never walk. Maybe she couldn’t change the fact that I had to wear crutches and braces the rest of my life. But on this day, she was by-god going to have a say about whether her little brother had a bike ride or not. Polio, or no polio.

Without saying a word, Bonnie reached down to pick me up. She wasn’t strong enough yet to lift me like an adult, and the braces added weight, so she wrapped her arms around me, and kinda dragged me up her body until I was high enough that she could get a better grip. Take that polio. Score one for big sister.

Then polio struck back. Bonnie couldn’t figure out how to unlock my braces, so that my legs would bend. This kept my legs rigid and straight, which made me heavy, unwieldy, and difficult to place on her bicycle. She tried putting me on the back, but the fender was too narrow, and too flimsy. She tried standing me on the middle bar. No dice. She then put me on the seat, and tried to stand up and ride from behind me. Almost killed us both.

At this point, polio was teaching my big sister a cruel lesson about the realities of life. She had tried everything she could think of to secure me to that bicycle, and nothing was working. She just wasn’t ready to admit defeat yet, so she stood there a minute, straddling her bike and holding me in her arms like she was carrying me across the threshold.

Now, I had no idea what was about to happen, but I distinctly remember a flash in Bonnie’s eyes, as the joy came rushing back. Apparently she remembered that little crippled brothers, were more “bend-y” than the regular kind, because without any perceptible hesitation, my loving big sister folded me like a pocket-knife, and stuffed me butt first into the basket hanging on the front of her handlebars. A wicker basket made for a school book, or a doll, or a jump rope. NOT a little brother.

It didn’t seem to concern her that my face was full of my knees, and my feet were above my head. I guess some sacrifices have to be made when a girl’s in a fight with polio.

Bonnie gripped the handlebars, drove her legs hard into the pedals, and we were off. Ohhhh glory. It was my first bike ride. The only person more thrilled about it than I was, was Bonnie. It was such a special thing, that when we reached Mockingbird Ln. where we were suppose to turn around, Bonnie just smiled and kept on going. Today we were going all the way around the block. Yea, we might get in trouble. She didn’t care.

We rode down Ravenwood, and Mockingbird, and even down Bruce street. People waved, and marveled, and laughed in amazement.

After awhile, I maneuvered my face around my knees so that I could see her. Bonnie’s long brown hair rose in the wind behind her like a super-heroes cape as she blew a giant bubble that eventually popped, but didn’t get in her hair;…….and she smiled,………and she winked at me.

I didn’t know there were people like that.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ted
    Mar 31, 2012 @ 10:04:08

    I was not as fortunate as you to have a sister, or even a brother, to do that for me. My experience with a bike was learning to ride my best friend’s bike when I was five years old. I was promised a bike of my own for my sixth birthday. I was going to get derailed as about a month prior to my birthday, I also beat the odds and got polio. My parents were allowed a special visit on my special day and I asked Dad about my bike. He told me that I was not getting the bike because I was getting braces. My just six year old brain understood the braces were a “birthday present” for me – I wanted the bike instead. Within the next few days my “presents” were brought to me by a guy in a white coat. The coat was not the only thing that was white as so were the shoes and straps. All the girls had white; all the boys had brown and these had to be for some girl and I was not some “yucky” girl. Why did he put some girl’s braces on me? I really wanted a bike instead and let my world know it with voice and attitude. Your writing is very inspirational


  2. phyllis gibbs
    Mar 16, 2012 @ 22:54:43

    thats so sweet jay i love you buddy not many bros & sisters have wat you guys had i kno you miss her so much, love you and hope to see you sooni enjoy your stories so much!


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