Bike Memories of Childhood

I remember certain things from my youth vividly. Like the year I received a “Big-Wheel” under the Christmas tree (1968). I remember the road trip to Minnesota in my parents’ Volkswagen Micro-Bus to visit an odd-smelling aunt who frightened me (1971). I distinctly recall the tiny green plastic army soldiers scattered about the backyard that friends and I would pose against one another in imaginary battles of ‘Marines v Germans.’ Clearly an influence of my father. Semper Fidelis. My first memory of a specific motorcycle was from my fifth summer when my neighbor had a visitor that appeared one hot summer day on a very long and very loud chopper, the details of which are lost to time. I recall the noise it made, how it smoked, how he kicked it to life before departure, and how cool I thought he was. That was the summer of 1969. My entire world extended no further than one city block. 213th street off Hillside Avenue in Queens, New York City. Home of the “METS.” My street was seen every evening during the credits of CBS’s “All in the Family” series running from 1971 to 1983. For all intents and purposes, my Dad WAS Archie Bunker (just tougher) and my Mom was Edith (just smarter). Over 40 years hence, the details of that summer are gone but strong impressions of little things hold tight in my ‘almost 50’ brain. I wonder if that old chopper still kicks around the streets of New York City.

I arrived home last night from my HOG meeting (Killer Creek Chapter) to find my own 5 year old son prone across his bed with an army of little green soldiers set up on bed posts, dressers and floor, ready for battle. The scene whisked me back 45 years. The soldiers are identical except perhaps I trust they are made in China now. I wondered what memories he will have of his fifth year on this earth. He waved and mouthed “I Love You Dad” as I motored down the driveway several hours before on the way to the HOG meeting. Would that memory of me linger through childhood and press itself into his consciousness? Would I be his first specific motorcycle memory? Perhaps a cartoon or a toy or a friend arriving at my house on a shiny new bike would beat me out. I hope and pray to ask him 40 years hence. Off to bed he goes, along with everyone else in the house as I sit here contemplating childhood, his and mine. I worry about his future and the legacy we all leave our kids. Cost of living increases, global economics, energy shortages, health care, a fragile environment. All life stressors he’ll have to learn to deal with. Will he be able to jump on a bike and de-stress like his Dad? I wonder. Do I even want him jumping on a bike? I suspect like all kids, he will be chomping at the bit for licensure at the 16 year mark. We have already agreed there’s no rush. Milton High is down the street. Walking distance. The school bus passes the house. “Cool your jets, kid.” Seems every pimple faced lanky teenager I know gets a free BMW from dad and a gas card. Not in my house.

Bikes are certainly cheaper to insure, sip gas, easier to store and repair, but the inherent dangers concern me just like any other parent. How my parents agreed to a Honda XL 250 street bike when I was 16 escapes me. I trust my badgering had a lot to do with it. We had rules, no passengers, no night riding, no highway, full helmet, etc… Despite rules Mom and Dad had to have worried. I trust my son will keep me up nights when he ventures out into the world beyond “our block.” To do so on a motorcycle may further contribute to my anxiety. We’ll see. Perhaps a strict set of rules. Safety course, limited power bike, riding gear, and of course, my parents rules about passengers, night riding, and highways. I would hate to deprive him of an activity that has given me so much enjoyment in my life. Given the recent studies I’ve seen and the cases I’ve worked on, eighteen years old may be a better time to throw a leg over than 16. Maturity, responsibility, judgment, discretion, all increase X10 between 16 and 18. For now, I think I won’t stress. I will just enjoy his company, coach his little league and bait his hook down on the lake if he asks. After all, he’s only 5. There’s no telling what he’ll remember of the summer of 2010. Tomorrow the weather should be nice, and I can get home in time for dinner. Maybe a ride around the block with him perched atop of the tank in front of me. We’ll have to sneak past Mom . I could rev the motor a few times, hold him tight, and revel in his ‘littleness’. Certainly, I’ll never forget it. I hope he never does either.

Well, signing off for now. Ride strong, ride safe and in the end, make sure you ride home.

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