Tuesday, May 15, 2007

thrill ride

I used to be somewhat of a thrill seeker. I've never shied away from a roller coaster or ride. I've bungee jumped. I've rappelled. I've flung myself out of tall trees on high ropes courses. I've downhill skied. I've waterskied. All good fun.

Since becoming a parent, I've had no desire to thrill seek. Maybe it would have happened with age anyway, but having Phoebe eight years ago put an end to most unnecessary dangerous activity. When I was pregnant in England I was really paranoid about crossing the street. It had a lot to do with them driving on the left and me never being sure where the traffic was coming from, but also it had to do with the fact that this little fluttering life inside my belly was depending on ME to nourish, care for it, and walk it home safely. I obeyed the traffic lights ABSOLUTELY. Unless it said "walk" I was glued to the corner, though crowds of annoyed British commuters went around me, I stayed put.

I wouldn't say I'm paranoid. I certainly would NOT say I'm no fun. I just think about things more. I weigh the fun of a few minutes against the fact that three little people depend upon me. I no longer want to go sky diving, which had been a long term goal of mine. This summer at Universal Studios I'll ride the rides, but I probably won't go on the ferris wheel at the carnival in the K-Mart parking lot over Memorial Day weekend.

It's not just the fear of leaving my children motherless that makes me play it safe, it's the fact that the kiddos are watching. If I don't wear my bike helmet, they won't. If I don't wear my seatbelt, they won't. If I don't wear flip-flops so as not to burn my feet on the asphalt in the pool parking lot, they won't either. I'm not only a caretaker. I'm an example.

Yesterday afternoon I had a library board meeting. I set out on my bike at a few minutes after four. By the time I got to the library, fifteen minutes later, the sky was dark and scary. I called Paul and asked him to take the cell if he went anywhere because I'd probably call for a ride home. We all looked nervously out the window during our meeting. Several people offered me and my bike a ride home. I said I'd wait and see, because unless it was raining, I'd really like to ride.

The meeting ended and it was just starting to sprinkle. The sky looked awful. My colleagues thought I was nuts and trying too hard not to be a bother, but I got this question in my head: can I beat the storm home? Well, I had to find out.

There was distant lightning. I'm not stupid. If I thought I might get struck I would abandoned the bike ride. But was distant. The wind was strong and cold. I hoped on my bike and hauled ass. Every minute I could feel the air getting colder and the rain coming a little harder.

When I stopped at the light at Burlington and Ninth I could see drivers looking nervously at me. But I also could see a few joggers who hadn't made it home yet and a couple of bikes down various side streets. I wasn't the only one out. I was one mile from home.

I sped down the only hill in town (and by hill I mean long, five-block, very gradual slope--Nebraska is great for bike riding) grinning like a Cheshire cat. This was fun. At Ninth and Baltimore the sprinkle had turned to rain. Half mile to go. My pants were soaked. I wasn't cold, though, because I was pedaling so hard.

I thought to myself that this is the sort of thing Paul normally does and I normally find annoying. He gives himself a difficult but unnecessary challenge, that could end badly. If the tables were turned I would be rolling my eyes and saying, "For Pete's sake, just let me pick you up! You don't have to ride in the rain!" But so far I was doing okay. I was having a blast. I was beating the storm. I figured I would get home just in the nick of time.

In front of the Methodist Church (quarter mile from home) the rain took on a sleety quality. I began to wonder if I would have to seek shelter from hail on somebody's porch, but I pedaled on, still grinning, exhilarated by the race. I crossed Ninth and rode up my neighbor's driveway onto the sidewalk and in the process dislodged the basket on the front of my bike. So I had to stop. I was literally in my backyard and I had to stop. I tried to hook it back on, but I couldn't get it, so I held it wobbly in one hand and continued to ride as the rain came down harder.

I ditched the bike in the garage and ran inside. By the time I had said hello to everyone and changed my clothes there was furious lightning and thunder and the rain was blowing in horizontal sheets. I was wet and cold and tired but I had beat the storm--thank goodness. And I was very pleased with myself.

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