On my way to the office yesterday, I saw a little girl learning how to steer her bicycle, a small one with training wheels. “Lucky little girl,” I thought to myself. When I was her age I only daydreamed to ride to bike, “daydreamed” because at that time I had never seen a real bike. My first idea of a bicycle came from an old magazine that was left in our house by a visitor from the city. Having lived in a very remote town, it was the first time I saw that two-wheeler thing and it haunted my curious young mind. I wondered how it would feel to ride on it.
My first close encounter with a real bike was when my father bought a new one, a big one, which he used in his job as the town’s mailman. It was to become the only bike in that small sleepy village. I had to wait for a few years before I was allowed to learn to ride. By that time, the bike was already old and worn out but it still worked—as if it purposely waited for me to help me learn how to ride. My father taught me the most basic skills needed in riding a bicycle. He taught me through the traditional way—he ran along with me every afternoon for many days. I was still a bit small for the bike but he managed to teach me how to operate it. “Maintain balance otherwise you will fall.” “Pedal, just pedal, to keep moving.” These were his constant reminders.
When I learned to get the bike going on my own, my young heart was pleased. My dream had turned into a reality. No longer was I daydreaming to ride a bike, I was actually riding it and steering it on my own.
My father’s rickety bike became my magical carpet taking me around the neighborhood whenever I was off from school or free from doing household chores. One early morning, I dared to bike to a nearby hill. The narrow road was a challenge as well as the climb. But the prize was worth it: the view from the hill. Sitting next to my bike, I was overwhelmed by the immensity of nature before my eyes—the sprawling ricefields, the rising sun, the animals in the nearby farm, the tall and big trees which have withstood weather and time, and the serene river which leads to the calm sea surrounding the town. The upward climb was not the only thing thrilling but the downward drive as well.
The old bike was also my escape. When I was sad, the first thing I would think of was hop on my bicycle and ride away to the seashore or dart toward the farm and lose myself behind the tall talahib grass.
On most Saturdays, I would look forward to visiting some of my classmates. As I steered my bicycle to their houses, I would see familiar faces walking along the way, smiling at me and sometimes calling out my name and waving as I passed by them. They were neighbors, distant relatives, family friends. One good thing about living in a small village is that you know everyone so well.
I have said goodbye to my old bike many years ago. It did not withstand time. I have had more bicycles, but the memories of the first bike I rode on still live on. Today, whenever I ride a bike, it makes me remember the small but beautiful village I grew up in and its warm-hearted and hospitable people. It brings back a vivid mental image of my father patiently running beside me as I struggled to maneuver the handlebars. It makes me realize that riding a bicycle is like riding through life’s stages: you have to keep pedaling and you have to maintain balance in order to move on.