My first “it’s mine and nobody else’s” bike was a blue Western Flyer. No bells and whistles, and definitely no training wheels, just a great bike. I was seven when my mom taught me to ride it. She pointed me straight ahead on the sidewalk, holding on the to back of the seat, and running along with me as I wobbled and squealed and pedaled, clutching the handle-bar grips for all I was worth. Mark Twain was right when he said, “Get a bicycle. You will not regret it…if you live.” I took a lot of tumbles and was scabs and band-aides from head to toes for a while, but soon I was riding all around the neighborhood.
The amazing thing about Mom teaching me to ride a bike was that she had never learned to ride one. She grew up on a Missouri farm where the roads were dirt and gravel. Her mother taught her to drive a car—and they ended up in a ditch before Mom became proficient—but she never learned to ride a bike.
Almost ten years ago, when my dad was still alive, Mom and I drove down to Chicken Annie’s near Pittsburg, KS to pick up to-go meals to take back for us, Dad, and his caregiver to have for dinner. As we sat outside at the picnic table waiting for our order, two older women—maybe grandmothers—stood one on each side of a young boy trying to learn to ride a bike. It was a familiar comedy of errors, with near falls and close calls for both the women and the little boy, but finally the boy took off. Mom and I cheered and clapped . For the boy, yes, but especially for his teachers. “You did that for me, Mom,” I said, and she nodded, smiled and said, “I remember.” I put my arm around her and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”
January is National Thank You Month. Take it from one who knows, if there’s anyone in your life—a relative, friend, teacher, neighbor, anyone who’s offered you help or shown you a kindness—thank that person this month. I’m glad I thanked my mother for the bike riding lesson when I did; within a few years she would not have understood what I was saying. I remember that day, the way she smiled and nodded, and I also realized that saying Thank You is a double blessing, once for the person receiving the thanks, and once for the person expressing it.
This is also Universal Letter Writing Week. If you have an older friend, someone in the hospital or a nursing home, please write a card or letter thanking them for one specific thing they did for you. Nurses and caregivers are very responsive to reading aloud the cards and messages, and often the recipients will hold their cards and fall asleep with them.
These two activities are excellent examples of Janus looking backward and forward at the beginning of the new year. When we look back at what others have done for us and reach forward to thank them, we change our lives…and theirs.
It’s a matter of balance. Albert Einstein wrote: “Life is like riding a bicycle—in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” And a good example of that forward movement is gratitude.
76 responses to “THE WHEELS GO ‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND”
Learning to ride a bike is one of life’s bittersweet, and freeing, passages. I have loved riding for many years- taught my kids on the grass at the nearby park. But like your mother I learned to drive young – Iowa, farm kid, you know how it is. I was driving my sisters to and from school and activities at the age of 14. And I was a darn good driver! You can tell your mother for me– those were the days! And give her a kiss.
Farm kids in Iowa, Missouri and Kansas drive early, Julia, and usually they do very well with the responsibility.
I was never able to practice riding my bike on the grass. I think it was too thick and hard to maneuver. So I rode on sidewalks, out in the streets, and in parking lots. Thus the scrapes, bruises and band aides.
An absolutely brilliant post, and I for one know the value of kindness from the many, many friends I have made over the years and of course in cyber space over the last few years, particularly in the shape of Marylin Shepherd Warner, Your words of encouragement, your continued lighting of candles and your special prayers, that you have sent my way have been key to buoying my spirits. If I haven’t said thank you before its because I’m a tit at times, so, Marylin from the bottom of my heart and my soul I thank you for being You and for being my FRIEND #youabsolutelyrock
Oh, Tom, you are so sweet and thoughtful. It’s been my pleasure to light candles and pray for you at Cathedral on the Plains, and each time you have a good day, I triumph with you. Your friend Brian’s assessment about fighting the cancer battles is spot on, and you’re a fighter who is well supported by family, friends and prayers. Thank you for being my friend; we’re separated by an ocean, but the friendship is a genuine connection. Many hugs to you and your family.
Great call to action, Marylin! Who doesn’t perk up when they see a hand-addressed card in their mailbox?? And as you pointed out, delaying thanks could equal a totally missed opportunity.
And thanks for the bike memories – I think. My two most vivid are a scenario like the one you described, father running behind holding my seat. Except when I looked over my shoulder, he was quite a ways down the road. I immediately fell over. (Proof of the mind-over-matter theory – in reverse!). The second, more pleasant memory was the acquisition (FINALLY!!) of my bright yellow Schwinn 10-speed. I was the coolest thing on two wheels in the neighborhood. I still remember the blissfully youth-induced bravado of joyously riding with arms outstretched – oblivious to what my teeth would look like if one divot in the road were hit wrong. It was the closest I have ever come to feel like I’m actually flying. (Insert wistful smiley face here)
I think I feel my own nostalgic post forming here – thanks!
Just listening to your bike story had me thinking of another nostalgic post forming, Shel. There’s something about “having wheels”–even if it’s two wheels on a bike–and speeding over to a friend’s house, or off to school (with a lock to keep the bike safe). For many of us, bikes were the first taste of independence, or freedom.
I saw the Einstein quote on the wall of a restaurant in Santa Cruz in August 2013. Somewhere I have a photo of it. Now where?
Who knew that January is National Thank You Month? I feel gratitude when I look at my son’s hand-made print on our bathroom wall: “No act of kindness however small is ever wasted.” You inspire with examples of your own attitude of gratitude.
And who knew that this week is also Universal Letter Writing Week? Marylin, you are “da bomb!” This fall going through our mother’s things, I found several packs of notecards which I plan to send – little surprises in the mail.
I like the idea of forward momentum the bicycle metaphor suggests. Several of my writer friends have chosen words to guide them through 2015. Mine is “advance,” which synchronizes with your theme. Brilliant post, as always.
So many of us call or post emails to have immediate connections, Marian. It was because of my mother–when she was still semi-alert–that I realized how much a pretty card with a short, specific message meant to her and her friends. Even now, I occasionally find an older card on her dresser, and though she doesn’t know who it’s from or what it says, Mom still keeps it because if feels good.
Advance is a good guide word, Marian. Mine is gratefulness.
Like Tom above I think my thanks are due to you Marylin. Apart from the inspirational posts you do, usually about your mother, which have a lot of relevance to today, you also visit others with your comments and your encouragement and most especially your friendship. It’s that in particular I want to thank you for since I find it so valuable. You;ve buoyed me up on more than one occasion when a little boost was needed.
xxx Massive Hugs xxx
Oh, David, thank you for telling me that. I appreciate it very much. If I have buoyed you up on more than one occasion when a little boost was needed, then I’m touched and happy that I could help.
Thank you, David, and Massive Hugs!
Wonderful advice – thank you
You’re very welcome.
Wonderful post Marylin 🙂 Ah, how I loved my bike! I had no idea January was Thank You Month (I guess we all need reminding). Just today a friend and I were discussing how the world is falling apart (in our humble opinion) because of a serious and growing lack of manners.
January has some special reminders built into the month, Yolanda. Maybe it’s the “look backward, look forward” influence of Janus? Whatever it is, the reminders make a cold, gray month seem warmer and more colorful! 🙂
I love this – brings back memories of my own first two wheeler and the freedom it offered and also of teaching my own son to ride – many an afternoon was spent on our common with me, a broom handle stuck down the back of his saddle, running along behind until he got his balance. Happy days. And Marylin – I’d like to thank you – for being my Colorado friend. When I was a kid I always wanted pen friends from around the world, and now through our blogs, I have my childhood wish! Happy New Year xx
I am so happy–and honored–to be your Colorado pen pal, Jenny! Thank you for being my special across-the-ocean pen pal, too. This has been one of the sweetest surprises of blogging.
This brought back memories of my learning to ride a bike and the tumbles etc of those early days. They seemed so care-free. Thanks for the memories (and the reminder to remember gratitude).
Bike riding–teaching someone else or learning how on our own–seems to be a shared rite of passage, Elizabeth. Wheels are independence, a measure of freedom…and preparation for four wheels when we learn to drive a car. There’s something wonderful about bikes!
I have a photo where I’m sitting in a bike basket and my mom is getting ready to go for a ride with me. I was about three or four years old. To get out of the village you had to take the bus or the bicycle. The bus came only once or twice a day. Occasionally , there was a ride on a tractor or a horse and carriage ride that my grandfather had . As I got older, riding the bike gave me the freedom to go different places.
January has indeed been a month for me to say “thank you” to so many people that helped my mom and took care of her doing the last years of her life. The doctor that made home visits, the pharmacy that deliveredat her medication, the wonderful caretakers that came to help, the neighbors that brought food and provided company and so many more people that made my mom’s life easier.
Marilyn, thank you for this wonderful post.
Marilyn, I saw a German movie about Alzheimer’s. An 11-year-old girl takes her grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s, on a journey from Hamburg to Venice. It is a little kitchy but sweet . The title is “Honig im Kopf” (honey in my head) . Maybe Netflix has it soon.
I’ll watch for a translation…or sub-title? HONEY IN MY HEAD is a vivid description of Alzheimer’s. Also, Gerlinde, that picture of you in the basked of your mother’s bike, treasure it. And please, at some point, post it on your blog as a tribute to her.
You’re very welcome, Gerlinde. And I know all the people who helped with your mother’s care appreciate hearing from you. Medical personnel and caregivers care about their patients, investing in their lives and well being, and I think that too often family members don’t realize that those who help also feel a loss, too. Bless you, Gerlinde.
Funny, I don’t remember learning to ride my first bicycle, Marilyn. It’s as though I’ve always known how. I do recall wanting a tandem bicycle; they looked like such fun.
I love letter writing week. In a world that’s full of e-mails and text messages, it means so much to receive a letter or card that someone has put some thought into writing. My 88 year old aunt moved into an assisted living last year. I make a point of sending a letter or a card to her each week, since she no longer receives much mail.
I love that first photo, Marilyn!
Jill, what a gift you’re giving your aunt, sending a letter or card to her each week. Thank is so thoughtful. You’re right; we sent e-mails and texts instead of letters, and yet there is something so tangibly special about opening an envelope and “holding” a message.
I am joining other commenters in thanking you for the wonderful posts you write each week. I thank you, too, for sharing your mother’s journey with us. You make me wonder how many times I do remember to say thank you. My husband thanks me for every meal, even if it’s a disaster. 🙂 Perhaps it’s time I thanked him.
Oh, Gallivanta, thank you.
I read your posts, and you have a very kind and grateful spirit that shows in how you share your experiences and memories of your family. But yes, we both should thank our husbands. Like yours, my Jim thanks me even when the meal isn’t 5-stars 😉 and he doesn’t complain.
And eats everything and comes back for more?? 😉
This resonates with us all. I learned to ride at 7, too. My bike was 2nd hand, bought by my dad off Tom Evans, whose son had outgrown it. Dad painted it up and it was mine. I had had a trike before and apparently I was a terror. I rode off aged about 2 and my mother could not find me. She told me never to do it again, she was so worried. I did it again the next day. None of my family is around to thank any more. But I did write to an old family friend recently. SHe is well into her 80s and had lost her husband. They had known my parents since childhood. Letter writing is a lot more appreciated than e mail.
About a year after I learned to ride, a neighbor girl and I took off on our bikes, going this way and that on an adventure. We didn’t realize our families were frantically looking for us. When we rode home, tired and happy, both our fathers took away our bikes for two weeks…and wondered if they should have kept us from playing together for that time period, too. But once the wheels were locked in the garages, so was the freedom and sense of adventure. Bikes are a part of so many of our lives, Andrew.
I’m sure your old family friend loved hearing from you.
I really love the fact that your mother taught you a skill she didn’t possess herself! Proof of something – not yet sure quite what! Thank you for all your great stories and memories.
You’re very welcome, and yes, it’s one of the many things about my mom that amazes me. She must have seen other parents pushing and running beside their bike learners? or maybe she just did the logical thing? or maybe, I was trying on my own and she stepped up? I don’t remember, and it wasn’t that unusual for her to just jump in and figure things out. 😉
Wonderful, Marylin. Thanks for the early morning bike ride (in my mind).
And today’s sunshine and warmth–finally!–would have made great bike-riding weather, Nancy! In the park behind our house, two young boys made the most of it, and happily got their bikes stuck in the mud. They obviously thought it was great!
My mother painted a portrat of a neighbor’s daughter in exchange for their daughter’s new, unused bicycle…a present for me. Needless to say, this post triggers many memories. I treasure old letters from family members who took the time to share their lives and show interest in mine. Gratitude and letter writing go hand in hand and is almost a lost art. Beautiful and timely post, Marylin.
Oh, Lynne, what a wonderful series of memories! I love it that your mother traded a portrait of the neighbor’s daughter for a bicycle for her own daughter. That is poignant and inspiring on so many levels. Thank you for sharing that.
I liked this post, it filled my mind with pleasant memories. The photos were very good and the art in the way the bike is leaning against the building with rough edges was beautiful. I agree with Mark Twain, although I enjoy walking through nature, when I was young, sailing down a hill with the trees on either side of the road was an exquisite feeling, Marylin.
I love walking more than anything now, Robin, but yes, I do still remember how it felt, sailing down a hill on my bike. I also had playing cards clipped to my spokes for awhile, and I thought there was nothing better than clip clip clip sound!
Oh, thanks Marylin for the memory of the cards clipped to the spokes of the bike wheels! I do remember this wonderful sound, too! I liked the quote about “Somewhere between the earth and the sky, there is a place to dream.” This fit the post perfectly. I remember riding my bike into a woods or to a quiet place to sit and think, dream and even pull petals off daisies and saying, “he loves me, he loves me not…”
And which was the answer–did he love you, or did he love you not?–such great memories!
Learning to ride a bike…teaching my children to ride a bike…wonderful memories. The most recent was my daughter…I think I could ride a book about that one…but instead, we just laugh at the screaming and fits that it took to get her to keep trying. Beautiful post, Marylin! Stay warm and safe amidst the snow and frigid temps. XOXO Robyn
You stay warm and safe, too, Robyn. This has been a tough winter so far, and it’s only getting started. So I especially like the special days of January to brighten the month.
I hope your daughter looks back now and appreciates all it took to “get her wheels”–once you learn to ride, it’s such a gift, don’t you think? 🙂
My dad taught me to ride a bike at age 5. It was an ordeal, a long story! But I loved my bike and still do. However, riding is getting to be hard, Can’t turn my neck far or get off fast and traffic here has increased around our house. I am a danger on the darn thing. I hope I don’t have to give it up like other things…I’m not ready yet.
Our neighborhood is a great bike-riding place, but beyond that there’s too much traffic, so I gave up bike riding years ago. I really like to walk, so it was a good trade, and probably safer for myself and others! 😉
You might write the tale of your dad teaching you to ride a bike, Claudia; I’ve been amazed at the chord it’s striking in everyone, and your could created a wonderful story.
Marylin, my favorite bike when I was growing up was a Schwinn (and I do believe I had a Western Flyer at one point). Ours was a safe, big neighborhood and there were many of us who rode together for fun. What good exercise we got back then (and we didn’t even know it!)
What a great way to interweave Thank You Month, moving forward, and bicycles in a post. Love love love this post. ❤
And I love love love the comments, Joanne, and how many memories we all have in common! Overall, I think we spent more hours outside in general, don’t you agree? We didn’t want to come in until it started getting dark, and there was always a game of tag or hide-n-seek or something going on. Neighbors were closer, and it was a different time.
That is so true Marylin. Neighbors were closer and we did spend so much time outdoors. I am glad for those memories!
Oh, so am I Joanne. Our grandchildren live in a small town, and our daughter and son-in-law allow them limited freedom to ride bikes and go to the nearby park to play or walk to get milk. But it’s limited, more careful than our parents were with us. They have to be more careful. It’s a different world.
“Life is like riding a bicycle—in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” I really love this quotes Marylin and Truly I`m inspired in your story my friend 🙂
Thank you, Jake. And with your artistic talents, you could illustrate Einstein’s quote wonderfully! 🙂
A great quote to end with Marylin, I love the idea of that secret place for dreaming. A great idea both to say thank you and to write a special letter – the world is less rich for its lack of letters, I think.
I agree, Andrea. And yet, I get so caught up in emails and texts and phone calls that I needed to be reminded of the importance of actually writing a letter. And I also love the idea of the secret place for dreaming… and the fact that the quote came with the illustration of a bicycle.
Thank you for all your ecouraging posts. Thank you for reminding me of how my dad taught me how to ride my bike in much the same way your mom did for you. And for the reminder to thank others. 🙂
Thank you, Tracy. It’s so good to hear from you.
There’s something about remembering how we learned to ride a bike that awakens so many other memories, and many of them involve our parents helping us. It makes it such a special experience, doesn’t it?
Very fun post. A ‘Thank You’ card a great idea. Your ‘thank you’ to Mary as a spontaneous response to the bike riding lesson you both observed must have meant a lot to Mary. Parents love hearing form time to time that they did a good job of parenting, especially the little things remembered after so many years.
I remember trying to learn to ride a bike at a pretty young age–five. My sister Donna is three years older than I, so she was ready for a bike at age eight. We always enjoyed learning things together–no matter our age difference–so the folks got bikes for both of us. Donna learned right off and tried to help me. It didn’t come as quickly to me. She would tell me what to do and give the traditional push start down the sidewalk. I would pedal away and get going pretty fast on the straight-away. Trouble was–I couldn’t control a turn, and I kept getting confused on how to use the pedals to stop. (Schwinn bikes had only pedal brakes.) So what I remember most was perfecting the Jimmy-Stop. This involved aiming the bike toward the grass next to the sidewalk and bailing out onto the grass. No scrapes or bruises. Just wounded pride. 🙂
Why am I just hearing about the “Jimmy-Stop” technique? At least you didn’t hit a tree to get stopped. 😉
You and your sister have all these sweet stories; even being three years older, she watched out for you and included you in things, so your memories are always wonderful stories.
Thanks, honey. And just as a suggestion: don’t teach the Jimmy-Stop technique to our grandchildren!
Happy New Year Marylin – beautiful memories, wonderful words. I’ve missed your posts. All the best in 2015.
Thank you, Mary. All the best in the New Year to you, too.
Marilyn, another beautiful post! I am also very glad that you told your mom thanks for the bike lesson when you did. Thanks for the reminders about letter writing and gratitude.You are a gem!
When my eldest was learning to ride, after several falls, I put on some extra large baby diapers on her (she was a skinny little thing back then) and to this day I laugh at that home-made “bottom protector”:)
Oh, that is too funny! But if my mom had put even a stack of diapers on me as a bottom protector, it wouldn’t have helped. My “learning to ride” wounds were scraped toes, bleeding knees and elbows, and bruised feelings. I took a lot of tumbles.
Mothers are so resourceful, and your bottom protectors are priceless!
I appreciate your stories of your mother and the way you share your memories. Beautiful. There’s nothing like the freedom of riding a bicycle! Thanks for sharing, Marylin! And yes, it’s always good to put gratitude in our attitude!
It all begins with a bicycle, Diana. And then look how it can blossom…soon it’s a mother taking off for Alaska on her motorcycle! 🙂
Ha! From bicycle to motorcycle! I might try a unicycle next, who knows?!? What about you?
I’m really into walking now, Diana. There’s so much to see “close up” and catch in little details I miss otherwise. On you walk one day last week, a dad his his young son rode by on their tandem bike–handmade by attaching part of the boy’s bike to the back of the father’s. They were just learning to maneuver it, and I heard the boy singing as he struggled to pedal. I used to love bike riding; now I appreciate all the little things I catch by walking and listening. 🙂
Thanks for kick starting some memories, Marilyn. My Dad taught me how to ride a bike the same way your Mom Did. My first bike – no training wheels – was a little runt of a bike, but it served me well. My next bike was a Schwinn. 😉
When my girls were learning to ride a bike, I did the same for them as my Dad did. I ran along side of them until I felt they had the ability to go it alone. I was running in clogs, not sneakers. What was I thinking? But we all survived.
Clogs, Judy?!? When I was helping my daughter, once I wore flip-flop sandals…but only once! But we lived to laugh about it. 🙂
There are so many generations of memories about bike riding, and so many lessons.
That description of the Jimmy-Stop method in a comment above sure made me laugh! I remember “stopping” like that, and I love that someone gave it a name. Also, you made me feel so warm inside when you mentioned how our friends in nursing homes may hold our cards and fall asleep with them. Now, when I send a card to my friend, I can imagine that she may be doing that with my card.
I feel the same way, Darla. Older friends holding the cards and falling asleep is one of the most touching reminders to me of the difference one card can make.
My husband is named Jim, and we tease him about all his wonderful Jimmy-fixes for things–even the grandchildren affectionately tease him because his “fixes” are wonderful–so I was thrilled to learn that he had his own Jimmy-Stop technique with his bike when he was growing up.
Your husband made that comment? … Okay, I just reread it and your reply with that in mind. So funny!
I was 7 too when I first learnt to ride my bicycle Marylin! How lovely of you to thank your dear mom in such a way. I taught myself and I wonder if my kids would ever thank me as all they probably remember is me getting quite agitated, ha!! Not the most patient of teachers, that I am not 😮 But we all get there in the end…whether by bike, or car, or well, anything. And yes, sending letters and cards are so important. I have a dear friend in California and we keep in touch by email, Facebook and Skype and as much as we also send e-cards, which I love, we do use snail mail from time to time and I absolutely adore it when a card or letter drops through the letter box. Makes my day, something tangible to hold and re and re-read. How much more for those in nursing homes…a great reminder, thank you Marylin. You have a beautiful, caring and thoughtful heart my friend…and I’m so glad I met you 🙂 I hope January is kind to you.
You are so sweet, Sherri. Thank you.
And I think the occasionally real letters and mail you and your friend send across the ocean to each other is a wonderful idea. So of course you understand how special it is to actually hold a greeting from a good friend.
I hope January is kind to you, too, dear friend! 🙂
Thank you dear Marylin…so far so…getting there, ha! Just in process of replacing my laptop, something I should have done long ago. But it will be great when it’s done 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend and I’ll be back over to you soon!
That is really something. Your mom teaching you to ride a bike when she couldn’t. And love your Einstein quote. So true. Thank you for the lesson. And all the best in 2015 to you and your family.
And to you, too, Diana. 🙂 Thank you.
Much love to you all in Colorado with this weather! Only yesterday I was chatting with Mum and Dad about our days as children and bikes featured! And apple trees, swings and slides. I love you stories Marylin and ‘Jimmy Fixes’..much love flowing to you all and especially for your Mum, who inspired you to start this blog. Xx ❤
Enjoyed your post very much! I’m all about the handwritten note – to say thanks or just because. It’s nice to see other promoting this worthwhile, and once received – well treasured, practice.