I hear the lone plastic training wheel awkwardly catch the pavement once, twice, three times and then see his body wobble to quickly readjust to find its center on the bike.
I hold my breath.
I think we both do.
He plants both feet on the ground bringing the bike to a full stop. I know he’s thinking “I-should-have-taken-mom-up-on-that-offer-on-using-the-toilet-before-we-left” and I laugh and slap the back of his helmet…but ever so gently.
“I remember falling off of my bike when I was a kid,” I say to him, “I fell off lots of times but the scariest time was when I went down the big bad hill at camp.”
“What? A driveway? An ant hill? Did you drive over a sock? That’s not big and bad mom. Pft.”
“Shhhhh my little smart allec on a cute tiny third wheel. It was a big bad hill and scary hill and I rode down it while I was blinded by soap.”
I was camping with my grandparents. My cousins weren’t up yet but there were some kids who were around my age that I thought I could play with. The only problem was that I was painfully shy. I didn’t have the nerve to ask them to play or introduce myself or to even make eye contact for that matter, so instead I stalked them around the campground.
I was like a GD camp ninja only on a purple banana seat bike.
One day I followed them into the bathroom and hid in a stall. I couldn’t see what they were up to since the cracks in the door were too rusty or maybe too poopy and I’m pretty sure that insects were doing insecty things in the corners and it gave me the hibby jibbies. I could only imagine what those giggling campground friends of mine — yes friends who didn’t know it yet — were up to.
“What are you doing?” an adult shouted from another stall.
“Nothing,” one of them responded as their sparkly jelly shoes collectively, and sounded very guiltily I might add, ran out the door.
I slowly emerged from my stall and the woman stared me down, “Are you with them?”
“No. They don’t want to play with me.”
“Well that’s a good thing. You shouldn’t play with them. They’re bad kids.”
What a very mean lady. How could she say that? I thought as I went to go and wash my hands. I reached for the soap dispenser and pushed nozzle.
The soap nozzle that those kids flipped upwards.
That they aimed just perfectly into six year old eyeballs.
Soap shot directly into my eyes.
It was like someone rubbed battery acid on razor blades and then gave them to angry hornets. And they were all up in my mother loving eyes. I opened my mouth to let out a yelp but out came a laugh instead. Those hooligans were standing in the small window of the bathroom and they saw it happen!
I couldn’t let them see me cry.
I had to play it cool.
I was cool.
So I wiped my eyes with my shirt and made my way out of the bathroom like Ray Charles.
Kicked my feet around until I stubbed my toe on my bike and hopped on.
Then I rode it like the wind to lot 34.
To lot 34.
Yup right to lot 34.
Where was it?
“So you see my little smart allec, lot 34 ended up at the bottom of a massive hill — just right on over the handlebars of my purple banana seat bike and right into the forest. How’s that for big and bad and scary.”
“Momma, that’s not being a smart bike rider. You should have got an adult to help you.”
“Ahem, what? Yes, of course. You should definitely get an adult when you’re in trouble.”
We stared at each other in awkward silence.
“I’m glad you lived Mom,” he said as he put his feet back on the pedals, “because your old bones can’t handle things like that.”