And so we return to our intrepid little bicyclist who joyously pedals around unaided by training wheels...
Riding my bike was one of my favorite outdoor activities as a kid. The bike I learned on was a tiny green second-hand bike my mom got from who knows where. She was pretty resourceful. I loved my bike. Even when I learned to ride it, it was already getting too small for me. By the time the next summer rolled around I think I probably looked pretty comical as my knees bounced somewhere near armpit level with each pump of the pedals. It was ok with me though it is important to note the bike also lacked a kickstand for parking it. Sure I would have welcomed a new bike but this was the one I had and I was really happy to have it. Did I mention I loved my bike?
One perfect day I was riding up and down the alley with my friends when I passed the back yard and saw my grandparents had arrived for a visit. Now, understand the set-up of the yard. The house was a duplex with no front yard with only a small backyard, which ended at the alley. There was a carport by the alley for our car and we kept our bikes in a small metal shed or on the closed in back porch. Either storage place was kind of a pain because it involved either wrestling with a stubborn sliding metal door on the shed or hefting the bike up steps and holding the porch door open while dragging the bike onto the porch. Neither option was quick and easy and I had grandparents to visit! Grandparents were one of the few things that would draw me away from riding my bike.
I opted to quickly ditch the bike next to the carport, in my own yard...leaning up against the garbage can...You know, I was being careful not to just toss it on the ground since it didn't have a kickstand.
I ran inside to see my grandparents, who were always doting. We enjoyed a typical and happy visit. In the back of my mind I made note of the sound of the garbage truck crawling down the alley. Soon enough the visit came to an end and we all walked my grandparents out to their car, which was parked in the grass next to the carport with the garbage can and, presumably, my bike in between.
Except the previously full can was now empty...and my bike was gone. At first I thought my bike had just been moved. Then I angrily thought someone had stolen it. Then my mother told me if it was leaning up against the can the garbageman probably thought it was to be hauled to the dump and that's what I get for not being responsible to put my bike away. The realization made my stomach sink. My eyes welled up as I thought about some ogre of a garbageman thinking my precious bike was mere junk. I bawled imagining a ravenous truck munching on my poor little bike like some sort of snack. I was heart-broken. There was much wailing. My mother remained unsympathetic and forbid my grandparents from going out to buy me a new one.
My grandfather tried to console me as I sobbed. I just knew all hope was lost. My bike had to be compacted into bits by now and was being digested in the belly of the truck among a week's worth of tin cans, coffee grinds, newspapers, dirty diapers, and rotten food. It was unbearable.
Equally unbearable was watching my friends ride their bikes up and down the alley while I had none. I think at one desperate point I dragged out my old Big Wheel to try to ride but I was far too big for it and the plastic wheels were pretty badly degraded by then as well. The whole situation was just miserable and I well knew there was no money for a replacement. Even if there were, Mom made it clear that I had a hard lesson to learn about taking proper care of my things. As far as I could tell, I was out of luck for a long time.
I don't know what period of time passed. It could have been a day, a week, or more for all I knew. Whatever length of time it was felt like forever because of the hopelessness of the situation. The day came that my grandfather appeared at our house. It was unusual because he was alone and he always came with my grandmother. Also unusual was that it was not a Thursday. He and my grandmother always came to visit us on a Thursday. Such rituals may seem strange but it was reassuring to me to know I could count on seeing them every Thursday. Whatever day it was and after whatever amount of time, he was there and he was smiling ear to ear.
He called me out back because he said he had something for me. I followed him and there beside his car, next to the garbage can, was my beloved bike. It was somewhat bent and a little scraped up but it was unmistakeably MY bike. I was elated! I threw my arms around my grandfather and asked how he got my bike back. He brushed off my question and said not to worry about that just to enjoy my bike. I thanked him again and again. He just smiled and said he couldn't let his princess (the buckskin kind, not the ballgown kind) go without her bike. He had fixed it up as well as he could but he was sorry it was still a bit bent.
My grandfather was my hero for rescuing my bike from the dump. As I pedaled crookedly up and down the alley, with my knees hitting my armpits I imagined him searching through mountains of stinking garbage to find my bike. I learned the love that would motivate him to do that meant more than if he'd gone out to buy me a shiny new bike with a straight frame and unmarred paint. I also learned to never park my bike by the garbage can again.