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Ripping open the adult-sized gift box and thrashing the Santa Claus wrapping paper around the room, my face lit up as I realized what was inside. I had been blessed with a new bike! I hadn’t been as excited since I brought my newborn kitten to kindergarten Show and Tell! As my dad strolled over to witness my overwhelming pleasure, my heart throbbed under my festive Christmas dress. My previous bike was definitely nothing like this one; this new treasure was stunning. The purple and pink glitter of the streamers on the new bike sparkled and captivated the attention of everyone in the room. The sleek wheels, oiled and ready for action, showcased coordinating pink spokes. My seven year old legs quivered in anticipation of taking command on the plush, shiny seat. Although it had enjoyable add-ons such as a basket and horn, what was absent from my new toy caused me the most joy. There were no training wheels. It was a two- wheeler.
My dad, taking notice of my delight, pulled me aside.
“If you like, we can take it for a spin after breakfast.”
Once our morning meal was finished, my dad and I headed out. We drove to a nearby soccer field, barren with the exception of a dilapidated light-up reindeer figurine flashing a combination of faded red and green lights.
With sweaty palms, I helped my dad walk the bike out onto the dead winter grass. Finally, we reached our destination. My dad held the bike steady for me as I swung one leg over the bike, feeling empowered. No fears of a painful crash weighed me down, for earlier my dad had swaddled me in every type of pad imaginable. My gapped, anxious smile was hidden beneath a heap of knee pads, elbow pads, and a helmet.
“Whenever you’re ready,” whispered my father.
“I’m ready,” I replied in a small, shaky voice coming from a place inside of me that I didn’t recognize.
He lightly pushed me forwards. I began to pedal, my confidence blossoming with every push of my legs. All of a sudden, my dad let go. Feeling him release his clutch, the stable and warm railing providing me with the courage needed to face any obstacle head on, was petrifying. My breath began to quicken, and I adjusted my grip on the handlebars boldly. Would I continue rolling forwards, picking up speed, only to crash and add to the many snakelike cracks in the dry, earth floor? Could I possibly fall flat over, like an unbalanced domino? Could a girl like me ride without the twin support of miniature wheels linked to the sides of her get-away mobile?
“Camille! Look at me! I can ride without trainies!” screeched a high-pitched voice in the distance.
Noelle, my 6 year old sister whose goal in life was to be my clone, was gliding across the field on her aged bicycle. I attempted to execute a turn to face her, yet I struggled. The task of balancing was foreign to me; I was accustomed to training wheels, the dependable support system of my past. I sharply jerked the handle bars to even out the weight difference between the cumbersome gift and my petite body. Before I knew it, I was on the ground. My cheek, tinted pink from tremendous efforts, skid across the earth, ripping up the grass as I slid. Dirt ground into my forehead and left a black mark like the cross I get on Ash Wednesday at church. My innocent hands had taken their first beating; skin had ripped off and been replaced with red, dripping gashes in my palms. Despite many precautions, I had fallen and been hurt.
My dad and Noelle scampered over and hoisted me off the ground. The bike had taken a toll from the incident as well; there was a fresh scrape the length of a pencil in the paint. To my surprise, my family was more concerned with me.
Once up and clean, I looked Noelle directly in her maple syrup colored eyes.
“You can ride without training wheels?” I asked, silently pleading with her to deny it.
“It’s easy. Trainies are for babies,” she threw her head back and laughed.
With that comment burning in my mind, I stomped off. My dad followed, interrogating me about why I was jealous of Noelle. I informed him that the older sister is always the best, which is why they were born first. It wasn’t fair that Noelle could ride and I couldn’t. For some strange reason, my dad believed my biking skills had nothing to do with my younger sister. If I wanted to ride, he trusted I could do it.
After the conversation with my dad, we packed up my bike and returned home. I had a rough day, even if it was Christmas.
That night I reflected on my fall. Was it really Noelle’s fault? Was it logical to be mad that she was better than me at something? Before drifting off the sleep, I decided I would secretly try biking again in the morning.
When I woke up I put on my safety gear, scarfed down a bowl of Honeycombs, and slipped out the front door to visit my bike. It was lying against the garage door looking abandoned, so I decided to accompany it.
For the second time, I sat on the bike with high hopes. Only this time, my dad wasn’t there to run alongside and shout out advice. I was alone. I braced myself, and pushed off down the street. The feeling was incredible! My eyes were teary from the wind, and my neck was itchy from my sweaty hair, but it made no difference. I was riding a two-wheeler!
I turned and pedaled back into my driveway. Where my bike once rested, my father and sister stood, smiling like the sun that happened to be shining unusually bright that morning.