In scoring 10th grade papers these last two weeks, I have read about 3500 papers and at least 300 of them have been about learning to ride their bicycle. They go into elaborate detail about the surprise they felt when they got their bike, every nuance of it's paint and decorative finish, and the presence or absence of training wheels, baskets and streamers. Then they go on forever about how it felt the first time they sat on it, how nervous/confident they were when they got moving and their many, many falls.
But the thing that really sticks out to me is that, 10+ years later, they still remember their mom or dad being there and how important that memory was to their childhood.
Cue mommy guilt: my girls, at age 5, were still bicycle-free and this quintessential childhood memory had not yet been etched into their young brains.
So on Friday, I started looking around on Freecycle and Craigslist only to realize that the odds of finding what I needed were slim. I looked at prices online and realized that I had no chance of affording two bikes right now and so I loaded up the whole family to go to the Salvation Army.
Dowlan stayed in PennyVann with the girls while I peeked in to see if they had anything appropriate for two pink and fluffy little girls. Disappointed, I found only three bikes suited for 10 year old boys. But I did see this:
The $69 coffee table of my dreams. I sent Dowlan in to look at it. He came out, shrugging with his usual coffee table indifference. I went in and offered the guy $60 for it and mentioned that I was a bit bummed that there were no little girls bikes. He pointed me to the back of the store and I went outside to round up the troops. Before our very eyes, was little girl bicycle perfection:
Dixie's is purple with Disney princesses, a basket, streamers and training wheels. It is the perfect size for her 5.5-year-old body.
Melody's is pink and has angry monkeys on it. It is slightly smaller than Dixie's and fits her slightly smaller body perfectly. She expressed mild disappointment with the lack of basket, streamers and princesses, but was magnanimous in her acceptance of it, despite those flaws.
I understood completely. After all, Erin Hale's bicycle had a basket and mine did not. My mother had declared them a 'waste of money' and I am still bitter to this day.
The guy gave us a deal on the bikes at $25 each and we walked out with two bicycles and a coffee table for just north of $110.
Had I thought this through a bit more, I would not have gotten home from this endeavor as the sun went down.
I also realized that I had not seen their helmets in awhile and did not want to spend what little daylight we had left searching for them, especially since Melody's needed a bit of fixing:
The girls had about ten minutes to hear the many rules of riding their bicycles in the street (we have no sidewalks and a sloped driveway) and were off.
Even Charlie got a turn.
The coffee table found it's new home in our (unvacuumed) living room.
And all was well, until the next day when I went to buy Melody a basket. The only suitable basket I could find was in a set and set me back $14.97. Although it killed me that the accessories cost 60 of what the bike did, I remembered my bitterness towards Erin Hale's basket possession and plunked down the cash, errr . . . debit card.
The set included a basket, streamers and a bell, all with Disney Princesses on them. This made up for every flaw that Melody's bike possessed. Now both bikes are resplendent with princess heads, flowing streamers and adorned with straw baskets, but this acquisition introduced a new inequality: the bell.
Dixie, distraught by this, ran into her room to cry on her bed because Mommy clearly does not, nor will she ever, love her. And, as I learned from the scores of scored essays, she will remember this grievous slight for the rest of her waking days.