Monday, April 14, 2008

Learnign to Fly

Having spent most of the useful work day laid out on my sofa, looped-out on double-dosed antihistamines, with ice packs on my swollen eyes, I did manage to wander into the office this afternoon at the crack O'3. The likely-lucrative mediation on Tuesday called for some special attention today. So, I carefully meandered my way in to downtown.

I worked quickly with surprising efficiency, crunching numbers and reading medical records. I stopped only for a few convulsive sneezing fits, which I combated with more allergy eye drops and pills. By 7:00, I was done with my work and felt pharmaceutically mellow. It was time to head home.

It was a well-lit late-evening commute. Traffic was swift, and the sun spread golden light across the valley. All of the gray, which had turned green over the weekend, reflected the low-lying sunlight in a dazzling spectacle of color.

I exited the freeway and made the familiar pattern of turns that lead to my house. As I came around a wide bend, I spied two boys on bikes, riding toward me on the sidewalk to my right.

The first boy dipped down into a driveway, and my eyes followed his path. Suddenly, reflexively, as he reached the upward concrete lip, my arms flexed and my forward foot pulsed.

I saw that his arms and legs did the same thing, and the front tire of his bike gained altitude, if only for a second, and the rest of his bike followed the same trajectory toward the sky.

Like lightning, and clear as day, my mind flashed to 1981. It was a hot summer day. I was riding my red Kent BMX bike with yellow pads down the street toward my friend's house. (No helmet, of course!) I was bored and looking for something to do. I, however, had no idea what was brewing at the far end of the street.

For years, the other boys and I had been building bike ramps, each increasing in height and risk as we got older. Apparently, the tire and railroad-tie construction from when we were 9 had become passe. Now at 10, we were going to ramp it up a notch, so to speak...

Tommy and David (Not to be confused with Drunken Ramblers, Tom and Dave) had been busy prior to my arrival. What met me, as I skidded to a distracted halt, was an engineering monstrosity. Wooden crates, 2X4s, tires, buckets, and duct tape held together a magnificent skeletal frame, which supported a lengthy 2-inch plank, placed atop as a ramp.

The apex of the thing reached approximately 4 feet off the ground.

Now, here is the genius: someone, exercising some degree of common sense, had realized that any jump from that ramp, and the resulting gain of vertical elevation, combined with the force of forward momentum, would cause dire consequences upon descent. Despite all else, you have to admire that guy's singular ability to think ahead.

However, that is as far as the logic went.

The "safety" precautions thus taken entailed moving the ramp to the base of the driveway, pointed upward at an angle, leading a jumper from the street, up the ramp and into the safety of the soft grass in the front yard. The utilization of the driveway, of course, added an extra 8 vertical inches to the whole thing.

Oh, and did I mention the tree?

It was a mature sycamore, and its branches overhung most of the yard. Following simple euclidean geometry, it was clear to see that the leafy branches lie directly in the path of the ramp.

A discussion was held. A conference. And it was determined that the tree branches would be useful in breaking the fall. Essentially, we would ride like hell down the street and up the ramp, launching with the maximum velocity our short-cranked single-geared rigs would produce. We would fly up into the soft arms of the Sycamore, and then drop onto the pillow-like lawn below.

It made sense.

I was by no means brave enough to go first, and watched as my pal essentially succeeded on the very first try. Of course, the trees arms weren't soft, and the ground below the grass was a hardened clay. Nevertheless, the fearless pioneer pulled him self up from the ground bruised, ripped, scraped and bloody, but grinning ear-to-ear.

We each, then, took our obligatory turns. I somehow missed the tree altogether on my first attempt. I suspect it would have been better to hit the tree... We all then made a second, machismo-proving second jump, and called it quits for the day.

On that old beat up bike, though, I never missed an opportunity to hit a jump, and caught air whenever I could, just as that boy did today. Maybe it is a universal thing. Maybe all boys of a certain age feel the need to fly, if only for a second.

Maybe girls do it too. I don't know, I was never a girl.

25 comments:

  1. I've already been nervous enough about my toddler boy and his antics as he gets older and bicycle ramps and trees...thanks for reiterating all boys are the same it's bred in them, they just have to do it.

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  2. How old is your son, Marge?

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  3. He's 16 months and he already climbs on everything. I often find him on the dining room table with his big wide grin "Look what I can do mama." Girls are so incredibly different. My daughter is nearly 5 and she never climbed a thing.

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  4. Haha, sounds like your typical little boy. My little guy turns 4 next month, and though he can be a handful right now, I'm grateful that a decade from now, when the turbulent teenage years hit, he'll be easier to handle than a teenage girl :-)

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  5. Yes, I'm scared to death for the teenage years of my daughter. I remember being a teenage girl (Of course I was an angel)! I can only hope we're teaching her "the right path."

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  6. Hehe, yeah we were both angels, weren't we? ;-) That's what we'll tell our kids, at least, right?

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  7. Right...that's the idea. Although I have tattoos and a belly button ring and those are becoming hard things to explain.

    I just got the button redone over the weekend (had taken it out for pregnancies) and she says to me "Who did that to you?" With this incredibly bewildered look on her face. Then said, "Can I have one?" I told her she could do whatever she wanted when she was 18. She said "I'm gonna get a tattoo like mama."

    Great. Like my mom has said to me a 100xs "Paybacks are a bitch."

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  8. My mom says the same thing (about the payback) to me when Todd exasperates me. She doesn't use those exact words, but she giggles, points her finger at me, and then says, a little too gleefully sometimes, "That's just like YOU!!"

    Or: "You were even worse!!"

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  9. I've decided grandmothers take great joy watching us go through the same trials and tribulations they did with us.

    Let me tell you though my daughter has bright red hair, red eyelashes and red brows and she's got the attitude to go with it. It's true what they say about red heads. I'm scared for teenage years.....

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  10. True. Someday we'll be relishing that same role as grandmas ourselves. And thus the cycle continues...

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  11. Anonymous12:13 PM

    Maybe instead of practicing your flying you should have been practicing your spelling.

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  12. Anonymous12:13 PM

    Maybe instead of practicing your flying you should have been practicing your spelling.

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  13. Peach PI aka...Auntie BSU12:14 PM

    Oops....I better own my comments....

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  14. Thank you Auntie BSU for pointing that out. You'd think Mr. G&T would know how to use spell check by now

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  15. You should try mountain biking. It will take you back to those old BMX days. Falling and getting bloody is just part of the attraction. Only thing is, we take longer to heal in our old age.

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  16. What?? nobody made a crack about me being a girl?

    I'm disappointed in all of you.

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  17. Weell... I must confess that I never actually read the blog entry itself. I saw Marge's comment and just jumped straight into that conversation.
    So, no wisecracks, sorry.

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  18. other8:46 PM

    Mr. G&T, no need to state the obvious.

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  19. Anonymous11:04 PM

    Heaven forbid we actually read your blog.

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  20. Anonymous7:02 AM

    Could Helly and Marge please exchange email addresses so the rest of us can be spared the boredom?

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  21. Quit reading the comments if you're so bored....just sayin'...

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  22. Don't stop the comments. Keeps some of us entertained.

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  23. See, some people don't mind Helly and I talking...

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  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  25. Anonymous7:48 PM

    Some may not, but most do.

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Be compelling.

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