Childhood Adventures

Guess I was eight or nine. Probably nine. I was always on my bicycle – bronze colored frame with a leopard print seat, I think I had taken off the chain and tire guards by then. Just about to get too big for it (and would graduate to the ultimate Sears Spyder Five the next year). I road like a madman most of the time.

The family across the street from us had a son, Johnny, who was a couple of years older than me. I thought he was cool, and often tried to emulate him. He also had an older sister – I really have no idea how old she was, but imagine she was a high schooler. Long, straight, dark hair, parted down the middle like a true child of the 70’s. I thought she was beautiful and mysterious. Funny… for the life of me I can’t recall her name now. Let’s call her Debbie.

Johnny set up a bike ramp in his front yard, basically a board laid beside a log from the firewood pile. We took turns going over the ramp, going for big air. Debbie started watching us from her bedroom window overlooking the yard, and would tell us who had the better jump. My bike size was just right for this type of activity, much less bulky than Johnny’s, so most of the time she said that I won.

Oh man! a beautiful, mysterious, older girl was impressed by my ramp jumping skills.

Johnny’s mom called him in for lunch, but I wasn’t about to stop now. I kept jumping, somehow hoping to win Debbie’s heart. But her window had fallen silent, and I began to wonder if perhaps she had left it for lunch with her brother.

But I thought I’d continue with my valiant effort anyway. This time I really got a fast start, hit the ramp, and pulled up just as it was lifting off. Holy cow I was high! I pulled so hard that the bike came out from under me, and in that brief second that I was in the air, I became frightened.

I came down, the bike followed on top of me. Was I hurt? A quick check indicated no. Was my bike hurt? No, it was undamaged as well. Did Debbie just see me make a fool of myself? Nah, I thought, she’d gone to lunch downstairs.

Then, from her bedroom window I heard, “Are you okay?” She’d seen it! I was exposed.

“Um… yeah. I’m fine,” I sheepishly mumbled (do sheep mumble?) as I picked up my bike and walked back home across the street.

As I got into my house, it dawned on me that in truth, Debbie was never really all that impressed by a nine-year old on a bike ramp. Maybe entertained briefly, but I was not going to be her knight in shining armor. People’s impressions are seldom as they seem at first, and risky behavior over those perceptions is foolish at best.

Unfortunately, as I look back over my life, it’s a lesson that I still haven’t mastered.

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