Revolution. The word itself elicits an emotional response. Change, unease, fear, excitement – and maybe hope – all conjure up expectations for the future. The Latin root of revolution means to turn; to turn back. This is my revolution.
I was five when I got my first serious bike. By serious, I mean without training wheels, but with glitter streamers exploding out the end of the handgrips, a white basket securely fastened to the handlebars, and best of all, a banana seat. Ohhh yeah. Living smack-dab in the middle of the city, the 70’s-style bubble font on my bike proclaimed I was now a “Country Girl.” It was my bike, and the love I felt for it was not dampened by the fact I didn’t know how to ride a two wheeler.
My brother, three years older and infinitely wiser, saw to my bikeducation. The first time around the block, he ran beside me, holding onto the seat while I wobbled and shook on two wheels. The second time around he let go, bit by bit. Each time, I would get stuck, until he push-started me again. I remember looking down at my pedals, frustrated. My brother pushed a pedal to the top of the sprocket and told me to start from that position. I pushed down. The magic happened, and I was pedaling. The third time around that block he just ran along beside me as I pedaled, both of us grinning like Cheshire cats. My heart felt like it would burst with pride.
My bike represented independence and freedom in my young life. We rode through the Arizona heat to cool off at the public pool; we shunned the bus to ride to school; we got out of school to bike to orthodontist appointments; we escaped to the movie theater on our bikes.
At sixteen, I hung up my bike for a set of four wheels, only to get back on my bike, after a serious car crash left me too shaken to drive. But the complexity of the rat race captured me with a new job, a new house and a new car in the driveway, my bike was demoted from transportation to recreation. I sold it at a yard sale. I can’t remember when or why. Maybe I had grown up.
And then last year, it happened. Strolling through the local department store we turned down the bike isle. A quick look at the members of my family, five strong, and back at the bikes and there was a glimmer there, a playfulness waiting to be explored. These were the value-version of the better bikes sold in bike stores. But for the price of one good bike, we outfitted everyone in our family with a set of two wheels. Not only did I have my own bike to love, so did my husband, my eleven year old and four year old. The baby got a double bike trailer that would also serve as a sag wagon for the four year old. We figured if we “stuck with it” we could always upgrade later.
Week by week, opportunities arose where we could take our bikes and leave the car parked. It was quicker to hop on the bikes and pedal the mile to the grocery than strap the kids in their car seats and try to find a parking space. My daughter asked to take the “mini-car” (aka the bike trailer) instead of the car. My inner tree-hugger happily calculated each mile pedaled as one less gas-burning mile in the car. The time between petrol fill-ups stretched from every five days to every two weeks. And then one day we turned back; we began our revolution in earnest. We sold the SUV… with intentions of replacing with a smaller, more fuel-efficient car…only we didn’t…
Sometimes I feel it: that uneasiness that “revolution” conjures up… but mostly I feel excitement and hope, fresh possibilities. I relish that our wee family is a band of rebels, joined together on this car-free adventure. Each time I set one pedal to the top, I turn back to simpler times. I feel that Cheshire cat grin growing on my face and familiar tightness in my chest when I see my five year old pedaling wildly around the block. Maybe she won’t grow up so fast; maybe…I didn’t after all.