Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gretchen Learns to Ride a Bike, and Other Lessons -- Chapter 3 in My Life Story

Chapter 3 in telling our childhood tales at Mommy's Piggy Tales is supposed to be about 1st grade or 6 years old.  One big lesson that stands out to me at that age was getting my first bicycle and learning to ride it!

I can remember clear as day the diary entry I wrote about buying my new bicycle.  I wish so much I still had that diary (or any of my childhood journals, but sadly during my insecure junior high years I trashed everything that embarrassed me, including my diaries!), but I'll have to recreate the entry best I can here (it's been a few years).

Dear Diary,

Today I went to buy a new bike.  We went to Johnny's Toys.  I looked for a special bike, and I got one that was pink and gray named the Sea Princess.  I chose it because it reminds me of going to Hilton Head Island and it has sea shells on it.  I am going to learn to ride it.

Love, Gretchen

Imagine this entry filled with some misspellings and you'll have the gist. :)  It was as though the heavens opened and a ray of light shone down on that bike when I came upon "The Sea Princess" -- pink and gray with a couple of shells on the frame and a nice big banana seat.  Oh yes, this was the bike for me!!  I remember Nate and Anna got bikes around the same time as I did and none of us knew how to ride them yet (yes, at 6 it was time to learn!).  Nathan's bike was sporty -- yellow and black and very cool.  It was made to do cool tricks with!  Anna's was called "Dusty Rose" (I believe) and it was a sparkly purplish color.

My mom was determined that we learn to ride bikes all the way -- no messing with training wheels.  She felt that we would get dependent on the wheels and not really learn to balance.  So she took us into the yard (so it wouldn't hurt so much when we fell off) and started us near the top of the slope that went from the street down into the yard.  She'd start out holding the back of our seat, running along with us shouting "PEDAL!!! PEDAL!!!!!!!!!" and then at some point let go.  She taught Nathan first that way, and then me and then Anna.  I remember tumbling a few times, but Mom was right, as long as I kept pedaling, I would stay up!  It didn't seem long before we were all 3 riding around everywhere.  

Another lesson from around this time was learning to say goodbye.  My Uncle Gene was my dad's younger brother, and my favorite uncle.  This picture here is of Uncle Gene with my Aunt Pat and my cousin Sarah.  He was so much like my dad -- fun and funny and great with kids, and Anna and I loved it when he would pretend our braids or ponytails were handles on a motorcycle.  He'd make all the noises, tickling our neck "putting in the key" and drive us around.  Uncle Gene had a brain tumor and our family prayed for him every single day.  I can't remember how hard that must have been for my dad, but I do remember when they told me that Uncle Gene died.  He had 2 kids -- my cousins Geoff and Corrie Beth (Corrie was really really little still), and our whole big Benzing family was so so sad.  I remember driving to the funeral in Kansas and seeing Corrie Beth dressed up at the funeral dinner afterward.  I remember as we spent the night before the funeral I had a terrible dream (it seemed terrible to me at the time -- which is why I remember it so vividly) that a robber stole a cup from me.  It was just a kid cup, but the robber was really scary and I was so sad the cup was stolen.  I went to my parent's bedside and told them my dream and asked "WHY did Adam and Eve have to sin????"  Looking back, I must have been processing a lot of thoughts about sin and death.  The sinfulness of humankind was becoming quite real to me.  Before Uncle Gene even died, I had asked my parents if Uncle Gene was scared to die, and one of them told me that yes, sometimes he was scared to die, but when a Christian faces death, they are given grace from Jesus to be able to go through it.  I remembered those words so clearly 25 years later when I sat with my family at my mother's deathbed, knowing with a certain peace that God was pouring out a grace on my mother to face her death.

I don't have any "school" memories from first grade, because my Mom was almost a "nonschooler" when it came to the early years.  Nathan, Anna and I all taught ourselves how to read really young (I do not remember not knowing how -- I only remember seeing words and knowing them), and Mom would read aloud to us all the time.  We also took fun "field trips" -- which we didn't even know were field trips, they were just part of our fun, learning world.    When we began more official text-book type work the next year, we were in no way behind, and after a few hiccups in 2nd grade math, I was cruising along just fine.  I can't imagine having the freedom to teach my kids that way, but I'm honestly so impressed by my mother, not being intimidated to do what she felt was best in an era when homeschooling was almost unheard of!  She must have fought a battle on all sides -- people wanting to know why we weren't in school, and her own motherly tendency to compare us with other children (what mom doesn't fall into that trap?).  Mom was really quite a minimalist in her demands on us, which might make many people cringe!  But I can tell you that looking back, those idyllic years of exploration, interesting books, tasting new foods from Jungle Jims (a grocery store) and wonderful hours of read-aloud were precious indeed. 


Sandy said...

Gretchen, great story! I wish that my memories were as vivid. I wanted to comment of the schooling part. I appreciate your comments as a home educated child. I know that I have lots of trouble with guilt and uncertaintly as to my choice to home educate, and I used your mother as a sounding board because I saw her as a successful expert on this subject! I totally miss her in many ways, but particularly in this area. As I begin to plan for another school year, these words were truly a blessing!

Ginny Marie said...

Learning how to ride a bike is such a great memory! Not only do I remember when I learned how to ride, but now I have special memories of my husband teaching my daughter how to ride her two-wheeler!

K.M.L said...

Great story and I love the bike! So sorry to head about your Uncle Gene too, but glad he is with Jesus

Anonymous said...

I love reading about your nonschooling experience. Yes your mother was ahead of her time. I am sure she could teach me a thing or 2. We are a homeschooling family and I do get the looks and questions about why the kids aren't in school. I loved that you spoke so lovingly about your mother. And riding a bike - WOOHOO!! Such freedom when you ditch those training wheels.

Janette@Janette's Sage said...

This was just very precious...very warm. I love how you saw Christ even in the hurt. I love the story of the bike. I also love the story of your beginning education, maybe because I have homeschooled for 21 years.
I love reading how different and special each history truly is His Story.

Eos Mom said...

I wrote about learning to ride a bike for my "piggy tale" today too. I love that you have a picture of your bike. So sorry about the loss of your uncle and mother!

Mom2three said...

What great memories! I love your bike story!

We homeschool 2 of our 3 kids and our daughter was asked a few years ago "So what's wrong with you that you have to homeschool." We were floored! That was one of the few times I had to bite my tongue and not say what I was REALLY thinking!

gianna said...

I have decided that I am NOT going to teach my children to ride a bike like that! but oh, that is so FUNNY! PEDAL! PEDAL! I bet you can still hear her!

Hafeli Ever After said...

I laughed out loud at the "Sea Princess"! So funny that you remember the name of your bike! And "non-schooling" is SO COOL!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you remember so many details! I totally remember picking out the bikes.. I guess I would have been 4 if you were 6. I also remember learning to ride the bike! PEDAL! I also have some memories of going to Whichita for Uncle Gene's funeral. Hard to imagine!? He was our age right? holy cow.


Emily Benzing said...

Mom was pretty much the same with me when we were first in school too. I have no memory of learning how to read. The one thing I do remember is cutting out pictures in magazines that stood for each letter of the alphabet... :)