I didn't learn to ride a bicycle until I was seven or eight years old. I didn't think there was anything weird about it, but it was way past time. One day my mom put her foot down and decided to make me figure it out. After a few frustrating driveway lessons, I could wobbily make my way from point A to point B-- so long as points A and B were only a few feet apart.
Eager to sharpen up my skills, my mother told two neighbor girls that I wanted to go for a bike ride with them. I didn't know the girls very well. One of them was older than I was and (bless her heart) had a bit of a mustache. The younger one was my age and I'd seen her around at recess but we weren't friends. I could immediately sense that things weren't going to go well. I tried to say I didn't want to ride, but I was already locked in. My heart sank a little as I pushed my bike out to the street where they were standing. I was an only child who spent most of her time dancing to "Kitten On The Keys" in her basement. They were sisters, kids who played outside and raced each other, kids who knew how to not fall off of bikes.
I barely made it ten feet down the street in front of my house before things fell apart. I was mortified. I didn't know what I was doing. I fell again and again. I brushed the gravel off of my knees and I fell into the street again. The same street with the large sign that says "Clark Park" on one side-- the sign with which I would one day, smiling and full of grown up confidence, photograph my son Clark. Of course I didn't know the grown-up confident version of myself yet, and as I tried to keep up with the girls on the bikes, the street and the experience seemed eternal. I tried not to cry, but I was just too embarrassed and I couldn't hold it in.
By the way, this is the story of why I don't like riding bikes. I do not own a bicycle.
I have two other memories of those girls. Once I ran into them in a department store at Christmas time. My mom had dressed me up, red hat to pointy toe, like one of Santa's elves and was having my photo taken. I passed them in the store and they looked at me and said hi. I don't think I said anything because I was dressed like an elf. Another time I went to a birthday party at their house, and someone told me that their grandma used to live with them and she died in the bed we were sitting on. I left the party early.