November 23, 2008

miles and miles*

The year I turned eleven I got a bike. It was a typical girlie bike for a then untypical girl. At that time I had not discovered all the lipsticks and shoes that I would embrace at thirteen. At that time I still wore my hair in pigtails, took apples in my pockets and went on bicycle grand avenues. It was the 70's and I could still do things like that. I could leave the house in the morning and not appear until the sun disappeared from the sky. It was the last spring before Chuck got sick.

The bike was white and teal with a wide banana seat. I called it "Love Bug" after well, the Disney movie. Mom borrowed my brother's model airplane paint and carefully painted the names of our bikes on them. Chuck got a red bike which he promptly named the "Red Baron". He was always obsessed with Snoopy and the gang. He did the best impression of Snoopy as a vulture. Somehow it would always crack me up.

I rode everywhere on that bike. Miles and miles and miles and miles. Often I would ride to a park in a giant field in the next neighborhood over. I can remember gnats buzzing lazily around my head as I sat reading book after book. I became obsessed with biographies for some reason and plowed through that shelf like a great white. I never could get Amelia Earheart out of my head. The mystery of her never being found haunted me. She was so brave and so daring. I imagined how sad it would be to die alone with no one knowing where she was. But…I still found her heroic and strong.

We would ride to what seemed like a vast bamboo jungle in deepest China. We would hide in the jungle (it was really more like an abandoned lot) only to jump out to scare the bejeezus out of each other. There was a lake in the back but I was forbidden to go there. Knowing the wrath of my mother's house slipper, I obeyed … most of the time. There also was a park where we would swing for hours and hours. Remember swinging so high as a child. Stretching and reaching. Higher and higher. Until you reach the top of the apex? You fling out the tips of your toes and it feels like you're touching the sun. The laws of physics jerk you back into the back arc and you reach again. Then remember being a dumbass and flinging yourself out of the swing at the peak? And falling on your ass, tumbling and rolling. You had skinned elbows and knees but laughed and did it again.

Would that we could still live life that way. Being the adventurer. Being the dreamer. The hero and strong. Running through the jungles of our dreams - exploring exotic lands. Bending the rules once in a while. Reaching for the brightest star that seemed right in your grasp. As if you flung yourself at it…and missed. You rolled with the punches, dusted off and tried again.

Too often I've stopped reaching because it was just too hard. Hurt too bad. Could never live up to my heroes. But then…I found out, we are our own heroes if we chose to be. We don't have to look up to anyone because we can look up to ourselves. And then, we can aspire to be heroes to someone else. We can always try to go beyond our grasp. We can be.

At times it's hard. At times we fail. At times we cry and rage. Those are the hardest and best times. Those are the ones that make us the very strongest. Those give us backbones of steel. Those backbones help hold you up when you feel as though nothing can. Those painful, horrible caves of despair and loneliness. Those tunneled, hollowed, ending struggles. The slough of pain. During the darkest, most haunting period of my life my mantra was "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". I used to laugh with a friend who traveled the road with me…we always said, "then we are the strongest bitches in the world" because we had survived so much.

So…I'm a strong, powerful, resilient person. I bounce back so well my butt must be made of rubber. As I approach this new decade in my life, I feel as if I've finally come into my own. Have I achieved all of my goals? Not by a long shot. Have I "arrived"? Hell no because I keep changing my destination. But…I finally respect myself. It took me almost four decades to be able to say that. But…all in all - I wouldn't have missed the ride for the world. All of it. And that my friend, that is a good thing indeed.

*This is an old post on my old blog from March 2007, but when I re-read this today, it served as a reminder to myself that I am strong and I will survive this set-back. Thank all of you for your thoughts and well wishes. Plans are in motion and I'm being pro-active. Michael I will e-mail you this week.


  1. Ahh...I love that line about it always being within your grasp. I am confident that new roads are only a few bicycle miles for you. What a lovely trip back your country roads. When I get back to California I will enter excerpts from my old journals to rekindle my memory, too. S'wonderful! ;) Hugs, M

  2. I just wanted to tell you I love you. :)

  3. You amaze me.... you really do! Aside from an incredible gift for the writen word (You should get all this in a book... or at least syndication!) - you have some kind of special insight & wisdom.

    Reading your post - I felt a tie to a kindred spirit!! Amelia Earhart was my hero!! Books and imagination and bikes and vacant lots were my friends!

    You will come through.....
    Always dream... always believe!

  4. I had a purple bike with a banana seat. I would do the same as you. ride from sun up to sun down. It's a sad commentary that kids can't do that any more. But that aside, I think that we truly become adults when we forget how to play. That's such a precious gift,and I'm going to try to remember to play more often from now on. Just be silly, make up crazy stories the way I did when I was five or six. Try to recapture the joy I felt when I would ride my bike down the hill, wind rushing through my hair, and suddenly taking my hands off the handlebars, feeling like I was flying. Nothing but pure freedom, pure love, pure imagination.
    Thank You for this blog Char, I needed it today more than you could ever know.
    Love. ..xxoo


i feel as if each comment was between us as we sat and sipped something warm....i love to hear what you're thinking.