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During the school year of 1983 to 1984, we rented a house in a neighborhood while waiting for my father to retire from the navy. I was in first grade and I have a few more memories of this house. My sister’s guinea pig, Snuggles, died and we buried it under the hedge in front of the house. There was a marsh near the front of the neighborhood where my sisters (Melinda and Elizabeth) and I would catch bullfrog tadpoles to take home and watch grow into bullfrogs and before letting them go. There were flowers along the way home and we would pick my mom a bouquet to soften the addition of the amphibians to our already full household. But what I remember most about this time was the freedom of bike riding. My sisters and I rode our bikes all over that neighborhood. We knew what streets we could go down, which houses to avoid due to mean dogs, etc. My first memory is of my dad giving me this freedom when he taught me how to ride my bike without training wheels. If I could master that, then I would be able to keep up with my sisters.

So the day came when it was my turn to be given this freedom. My dad took the training wheels off my bike and gave me the rundown of how to ride. Keep your balance, keep your eyes on the path in front of the front tire, keep your hands steady on the handlebars, and if you feel like you are going to fall, try to fall towards the grass and away from the road. And the most important rule: if you fall, get right up and back on the bike immediately before the pain of the fall goes away. Never let the fear of the fall keep you from experiencing the thrill of the ride.

Now I am trying to remember everything, but keep worrying about how much it will hurt if I fall. I get on the bike and my dad holds the back of the bike seat and tells me to start peddling. He pushes a little to help me get started and then just holds the seat for balance while jogging beside me. I beg him not to let go, that I will let him know when to let go, that I am not ready for him to let go yet, and he assures me that he is still holding on. I begin to pick up speed and I am so concentrated on all the rules that finally I say “you can let go now,” but all I hear from a behind me is “I already did!” My dad let go without me knowing! I got scared and the handlebars began to shake. I could hear my dad running towards me saying, “It’s ok, keep it steady, you can do it. Look at you! You’re riding all by yourself! Great job, you’re doing perfect!” Those words encouraged me and I steadied the handlebars and rode for quite a while. But I hadn’t learned how to turn yet, which means I couldn’t turn around, so I bailed into a yard. My dad was right there and helped me up. It was such a thrilling experience. I am not sure who was more excited, me or my dad! We then walked up to the elementary school that was about 6 blocks from the house and in the empty parking lot my dad taught me how to turn and how to stop. All the while, my dad’s words were so supportive and loving. By the time the sun was setting, I was riding like a pro. Dinner was ready when we returned to the house, and boy was I glad it was, because I had worked up quite an appetite!

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The following comments are for "My Dad - Chapter 4 - Wheels of Freedom"
by leftylink

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