I couldn’t See the Small Scratches

Cindy Lou Aillaud - Delta Junction, AK

My sixth birthday couldn't come fast enough.  I had wished for a bicycle all year.  When the big day arrived my mom and dad presented me with the most beautiful red and white 24‚ Schwinn bicycle I had ever seen.  It was better than anything I had imagined.  I wasn't even aware of the small scratches achieved by an earlier owner.

I received many honor badges from my bicycle.  I was quite petite and yet determined to become as one with my bike.  Also being an independent, tenacious child I wanted to do it on my own.  My bruises gradually faded as my bike and I became inseparable.  While my family saw me ride up and down the driveway over and over again, in my mind I was exploring the world.

One day I decided I was ready for more difficult terrain.  Despite my mom‚Äôs warnings of staying away from the hill in the cow pasture of our small farm, I made up my mind I was going to do it.  Getting to the hill was easy.  The cows just watched with their big eyes and continued to eat grass as I rode by.  The chickens scattered out of my way.  Our two horses and our dog followed as I lead them down this daring path.

At the top of the hill, I hesitated.  It was steeper than I remembered and was dotted with boulders making the route an obstacle course.  I took a deep breath and pushed off accepting the challenge.  I was unstoppable, cruising past each roadblock.  Then it happened.  From out of nowhere a large rock appeared immediately in front of my tire, too late for me to avoid it.  I hit it head on and braced myself for the airlift and landing.  I did it!  Almost.  On the landing my new front tooth hit the handlebars and a touch of my tongue revealed only half of a tooth.

I dragged my bike up to the house taking my time afraid of the consequences of what I‚Äôd done.  My mom took one look at me and burst into tears.  After examining the rest of me, our dentist was called and I had an emergency visit.  The dentist stated that I would need a root canal because the tooth had been so badly damaged but despite the broken and gray color, my tooth would remain in my mouth to be replaced when I was older.

My tooth became part of my signature smile.  I never really even paid attention to it until my family moved to a new town.  This put me in a new school with kids I didn‚Äôt know.  I suffered intense teasing about my tooth.  I could have let it bother me (it did a little!) but instead I developed grit.  I remained true to my sweet and friendly disposition, eventually winning the hearts of my classmates and even being voted as Homecoming Queen in my senior year of high school.

My bike and I rode all over the local area together.  We even did an overnight bike ride on Orcas Island, Washington.  In fact, this bike ride was the first time I realized that other kids had gears on their bikes.  I didn‚Äôt let this slow me down.  I may not have been the first to camp, but I also wasn‚Äôt the last. 

I continued to ride and in time purchased a 10-speed.  It was my love for my first bike, the many adventures I had and the character it built that led to spending my honeymoon bicycling from Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska on the newly opened Parks Highway; but that‚Äôs a whole other story!

My first bike contributed to making me who I am today.  I am grateful my parents found that For Sale ad in the paper to grant the wish of their little girl on her sixth birthday.

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