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Imagine Me on a Bike

I don’t have training wheels on my bike anymore. Freedom! We’re cycling on the side of the road in our neighborhood. An occasional car rambles by, but mostly pedestrians, other bicycles, horse carts, and becaks. It’s not too busy though, or Mom wouldn’t have let me go. Today is special because Grandpa is riding with us. He and my big brother are ahead. My big sister is behind me.

I smell jasmine in the yard of the house we ride by. The white blooms send off a light fresh scent like it’s waving at me from afar. I close my eyes and feel the wind on my face. But not for long. Mom would want me to watch the road. I turn to look back—my sister has dropped way behind. I smile and wave.

“Come on! Let’s catch up with Grandpa!”

She accelerates her pedaling until we are tailing the two bikes in front. We pass a woman in a batik sarong and traditional lace blouse who holds the hand of a youngster.

“Dada,” he yells as he waves vigorously. The old lady has taught him the customary Dutch greeting. I return the greeting because I want to be polite. But mostly, I want to concentrate on pedaling to keep up with Grandpa.

Grandmother and Grandpa have come to Indonesia to spend several months with us. Grandpa has taken to our village life like he’d never lived anywhere else. You wouldn’t know he was born and raised in the United States.

He walks to the corner store to buy Speculas, his new favorite cookie. It’s a ginger cookie shaped like a windmill, a traditional snack leftover from the days when the Dutch colonized this region. He smokes a pipe and sometimes he’ll blow little smoke rings in the air for us to watch. They start small and grow as they rise into the air. Then they disappear and we beg him to do it again. Grandpa is quite as a statue, unless he has something very wise or very funny to say. When he speaks, we all listen because we’re gonna learn something.

My bike leans a little to the right and I have to lean to the left to balance. I laugh and wave one more time. I pretend just a little bit longer, then I dismount. I’m alone in the garage where we park the bikes. I was using the wall to balance, because actually, I can’t ride without training wheels just yet…not good enough to be in the streets anyway.

Grandpa and my brother and sister will be back soon. They’ll drive their bicycles into the garage and lean them against the wall next to my lonely purple bicycle. Maybe next time Grandmother and Grandpa come for a visit I’ll be old enough to join the group.

I smooth out the tassels on the handlebars, grin at my grandpa and siblings who are not actually there, and say, “That was a fun ride, let’s do it again tomorrow!”

Published inChildhoodCulture