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Coffee Break with Liz and Kate » Headline, read here »

write an essay on your last birthdayRemember back in the day, when our bikes took us everywhere? I’d venture a guess that I probably put a minimum of hundreds of miles on those toothpick tires.

We never had helmets or padding. We’d show off our balancing skills riding with our hands in the air. And we loved to see how fast we could go.

We rode to the Country Club or Dairy Queen, downtown or out in the middle of nowhere.

And while we realized (somewhere waaaay in the back of our minds) that a bike wreck was always possible, we had a knack for dismissing the possibility. I suppose if we’d have given wrecks much consideration, we’d have never ridden our bikes.

The worst bike wreck I can remember having occurred somewhere around the age of 13, I’m guessing. Maybe I was younger – what does it matter? What does matter is that I can remember absolutely flying on my baby blue Schwinn 10-speed, hitting some gravel in a turn and totally wiping out. Ouch. The gravel and pavement tore off the skin on what seemed to be the entire left side of my body, leaving small chunks of gravel in the open, bleeding wounds. One of the bike’s wires jabbed into my upper right thigh. It wasn’t pretty.

Once I was back on my feet, I wouldn’t get back on the bike – I walked it home, fighting back tears with every step I took.

I remember that it got my attention. From that day on, I was a bit more cautious. I rode my bike a little less. I no longer trusted my bike or the road beneath me.

Flash forward a few decades. Colton announced that he was going bike riding on his Mongoose – the bike that comes ready for tricks with the front and back pegs in the middle of the tires. Ever since he’s learned to ride, he’s also been subjected to my near-constant harpings of “be careful”. But as most of us know, some lessons can’t be taught – we often learn only by living.

He and his buddies across the street, unbeknown to me, had dragged out the bike/skateboard ramps, with the goal of seeing how high in the air they could get.

I thought it a bit odd when neighbor Noah came up the driveway with Colton’s bike a while later. When I inquired, Noah said something about Colton having a scratch and needing a Band-Aid. I thought little of it, and went back to cleaning the car.

Now before you go screamin’ “bad mommy”, understand that Colton is a Band-Aid freak. He can find any excuse for one.

It wasn’t until another kid in the neighborhood came up to me and asked if Colton was OK that I went into the house to check on him.

In all, he’d scraped the skin off all the knuckles on his right hand and left shoulder (that one was probably the worst – and largest of the injuries) and had a red spot under his left eye.

As he recanted the details of flying off the ramp, getting waaaay up in the air and crashing to the ground below, I tried to block the words – I didn’t want to know the gory details. And I didn’t ever want him to try that little trick again. All I wanted was to make sure he was OK.

And he was. But the ramp wreck had gotten his attention. He realized he’d been lucky – that it could’ve been much worse. The rest of the day found him in a melancholy mood, zapped of all energy.

As we sat down together that evening, the questions started:

“Did you ever have a bike wreck when you were little?”

I told him the story of the baby blue Schwinn 10-speed, how it altered my bike-riding invincibility.

He nodded his head in agreement, now knowing exactly why I always nagged him to be careful.

Sometimes the only way we learn is by living.


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