When I was four years old my brother, who is a couple of years older than me, got a shiny new red two-wheeler bicycle for his birthday. He was the envy of all the neighborhood kids, including me. But he refused to let me try it out, even once. I was just a little kid, he said, and I should ride the tricycle. But I hated the hand-me-down tricycle, it was for babies, and I wanted to be a big kid like him! I pouted and refused to ride the trike until I could try out his sparkly two-wheeler.
A week later my grandfather showed up at our house with a gift in the back of his pickup truck. It was a two-wheeler bike and it was for me! I was so thrilled that I didn’t even notice the peeling spraypaint over the rickety, rusty frame! I was so excited to have my own bike that I didn’t care that he found it at the dump and fixed it up, like a good Eastern European immigrant who found purpose in everything and abhorred waste. I loved the bike so much that I leaped onto it, as if I expected to instantly float or fly into the sky like Elliot and E.T., but I immediately tumbled to the ground. Grandpa laughed and told me to have fun figuring out how to ride.
The fall did nothing to discourage me; I found the biggest, flattest patch of soft grass in my parents’ northern country yard and got right back up on the bike. And I fell again – quickly! And I got right back up on that bike again. I fell again and again and I got up again and again. I remember seeing my mother look out at me from the kitchen window and shake her head. I rode around that patch of grass trying to balance on the tiny two-wheeler for hours before I finally managed to stay up long enough to do a full circle. My little legs and arms were stained green before I had the nerve to stroll out to the paved driveway. The sun was setting and my mother was calling me in for dinner before I was satisfied with my accomplishment.
Finally I could ride my own two-wheeler bike and I figured it out all by myself.