When a bike meant freedom…

I remember hearing a “grown-up” remark to my mother one long-ago day that after the Fourth of July, the summer was half over.

No way,  thought my ten-year-old self. It’s just starting!

Back then, we got out of school on Memorial Day and didn’t go back until after Labor Day. There was no summer school, no day camps, no planned activities. We lived in the country and Mom didn’t drive any more than she had to. Taking kids somewhere for entertainment wasn’t on her to-do list.  To be fair, it wasn’t on the list of any mother I knew. We kids were on our own for three blissful months.

We had bikes, though, and managed to get just about anywhere we wanted to go. We would pack a pb&j sandwich and a towel, put our swimsuits under our shorts and shirts and bike to the beach.  We lived near a lake resort, so we didn’t try for the sandy beach with the life guard because it cost fifty cents to get in.  We biked to the other side of the lake where there was a free beach. I hated the muck and weeds under my feet, but the water felt good after biking a couple miles under the hot sun.

I biked to the library and loaded up on books, hoping they’d last a week. I biked to my best friend’s house where we spend hours discussing said books.

Sometimes Mom had us bike to a farm where we could get a gallon of raw milk for fifty cents. I don’t drink milk now because nothing I buy tastes the same as that milk fresh from the cow.

We didn’t have fancy mountain bikes for our excursions. We had the old fashioned, heavy bikes with the fat tires. When they went flat, we knew how to pump them back up. If that failed, we had to wait for Dad to come home and patch the tube.

My grandkids don’t have the same freedom as we did, and I think it’s a darn shame. I realize times are different, I really do. Our grandkids have many more opportunities what with church camp and band camp and something called ultimate Frisbee camp and I’m sure they have just as much fun as I did during their considerably shorter summer vacations. But I still feel they are missing out on the chance to dream up their own adventures, to wake up in the morning and wonder what the day will bring. To learn to provide their own structure and to depend on their own imaginations.

To get on their bikes and go, unsupervised, into the world without fear and their only warning to be back in time for supper.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. natalieratcliffe
    Jul 07, 2013 @ 23:00:41

    I completely agree and would even dare say that the bike was a chance to discover ones own character. I remember my summer days filled with building Lego castles, rummaging through the woods around our houses and making forts and mud pies and picking berries, and even chasing each other on our bikes. Even 20 years ago, give or take a couple of years, we weren’t permitted to ride too far because of all of the danger out in the world. There are often times when I wish for a less structured, less technologically advanced world.


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