By: Joan Gross
When I was a young teen I desperately wanted a bicycle. I fantasized about the freedom it would bring me, the places I would go, the wind flying past me as my newly muscled legs would peddle me into new adventures.
Our road was our world and it was a small world. There was an older couple with a grown daughter and a family with small children. The other two houses on this half mile road were populated with faces and names that I either never knew or escape my memory. Our road, for our early teen years, was a lonely road. Later there would be two families with teenagers, but that was knowledge that I did not then possess. I only had one friend in junior high school and she lived far away and in another world. We tended to our farm chores early in the morning and late in the afternoon. My father worked for the railroad and my mother at Fannie Farmer Candies. We had everything we needed but not much extra.
At that time I earned $1 a week for my job of collecting, sorting and candling eggs. My father promised me a dollar for every dollar I saved and I began to earnestly save for my dream bike.
In 1955 a new car cost under $2,000 and a gallon of gas a quarter. The bicycle probably cost about $36. It definitely took me longer than 18 weeks to save for the bike, partially because my sister and brother and I pooled our money together at appropriate times for gifts for mom and dad’s birthdays and other occasions. And sometimes we would take the little children that lived across the street to the far end of our road—the end that hit Route 9W, to treat them and ourselves, to a single scoop of vanilla ice cream served in glass Sundae dishes at the Glenmont Diner. The song most doo wapping from the jukebox was “Little Darlin” by the Diamonds. I can still hear it.
Finally dad took my share of the money and came home with a beautiful bike. It was large and shiny and the most expensive item I ever owned. I learned to ride it in our driveway and shivered in anticipation of my new adventures. Unfortunately the bike I had was not meant for traveling on pebbled, rutted roads. Each foot I advanced was a frustrating chore and after two days of trying to master the road, enough was enough and the bike was put in the garage and never came out again.
Let’s fast forward fifty-five years. What happened to my bicycle fantasies? Somewhere in the middle of those years I did have a bike and biked with my daughter. Then I moved and the steep cost of moving necessitated shedding many things, including the bike.
But my dream lived on. I purchased a bike in Cincinnati. Because I live at the bottom of a long hill I figured that first I would buy a bike in Naharyia where my husband lives and practice there. Riding in Naharyia promised to be easy and pleasurable. The entire town is flat and there is a promenade along the Mediterranean. It is common to see young and elderly on bikes and there are racks scattered throughout town where they can be securely parked.
The promenade in Naharyia. In the distance is Rosh HaNikra and Lebanon
So when I next visited my husband, I nagged him into shopping for two used bikes so that we could go out riding together. My old bicycle fantasy had given birth to a larger fantasy.
Finally the bikes were purchased and I relived my teenage excitement. We went out together to test our bikes. I jumped on my bike, I peddled fast and furious and felt the freedom I always longed for. The wind was flying past me. My legs felt strong and supple and they circled round and round effortlessly. I was gleefully flying north on the promenade, sure that my husband was behind me. Suddenly I took note of his absence and headed back to our starting point. There I found him sitting on a bench a block from the starting point, holding the bike and staring at it dejectedly. He was frustrated about his inability to ride. He had never learned. He had grown up in a big city and never owned a bike.
For now the sole function of both of the Naharyia bikes and the one in Cincinnati is that of large dust collectors.
I think about all the driving I do every month (over 30 hours), and my thrice yearly 11 hour each-way plane trips to see my husband, and I wonder why I still have the fantasy of the freedom of a bike.
Maybe because when it comes to a dream, enough is never enough.
(Joan Gross is the co-author, with husband Michael Jaron, of “Forty Days and Forty Nights, Rain, Rain, Rain”). http://www.TurnipTimes.com