Various modes of transportation seemed to be the bane of my existence. One afternoon, my friend Shari and I rode our bikes to a road bordering the George Washington National Forest — woods on both sides, no houses. As with most of the roads in the area, it seemed, it was a hill. We decided to take turns riding down the hill on one bike, with one of us “driving” and the other on the handlebars. We would speed down the hill — giggling, screaming — real daredevils, we were.
This is a true story. I haven’t changed any names. It will be published over a series of posts in the coming days and weeks. Previous post: The Trials and Tribulations of Transportation
Eventually Shari tired of the game and decided to sit out the next trip down the hill, so I took the ride by myself. Unfortunately, my 8 years of life, 2 years of experience with a bicycle, and 15 minutes of experience biking on dirt roads had not prepared me for the dramatic change in speed and steering resulting from the reduction of weight on the handlebars. I lost control of the bike and was thrown off it, resulting in multiple scrapes and bruises, the worst of which was to my left knee.
With my mangled bike no longer in service, I walked home, where my mother patched me up as best she could. The damage to my knee was severe and the bandages soaked through quickly. The nearest hospital was an hour away, so the ER was out of the question. My mother enlisted help from both the school nurse and Shari’s mother, who had once worked as a nurse, to change the bandages several times a day. I would stop at Shari’s house after school so Jackie could tend to my knee before I continued on to my own house.
It was decades before the scar on my knee faded.It was many more decades before the emotional scars faded. Not so much from the bike accident that permanently ended my biking days at the ripe old age of 8. The scars from everything I had experienced and witnessed in the space of just a year.
I had been uprooted from my home and everything I knew, including my lavender bedroom with the white French provincial furniture. I never spoke again to any of my friends — not Kim across the street or Valerie next door — never again saw my favorite teacher who had given me the only set of straight A’s I would ever earn. I had been uprooted from that and plopped down in a log cabin where the front yard was woods, where the street was a dirt road, where my short walk to school had been replaced with a two-mile walk followed by an hour-long bus ride.
I had watched my mother struggle to cook without an oven, struggle to manage with POS cars, and struggle to raise two young children on her own while my dad worked out of town all week.
I had even witnessed Shari’s mom, the original Nurse Jackie, slide down the hill from her house on a shiny silver flying saucer, right out into the lake, whereupon she disappeared under the ice. (She was rescued and fully recovered.)
Then one night it all came to an end. We packed up everything we could squeeze into our car and left the log cabin in the woods. In terms of physical possessions, we left behind far more than we took with us. After one year, spanning half of two different grade levels in school, as well as two Christmases, we drove down that dirt road for the last time.
And we ended up on my grandparents’ doorstep.
(Next: A New Dirt Road)