To my bicycle:
I think we both remember that one spring day in 7th grade, that day I confidently made the trip to the bicycle store with my parents. After test-driving several different models I finally decided upon a black hybrid Specialized bicycle. You had an adjustable seat, thick air-filled tires, and amazingly awesome grip shifters. You glided effortlessly across the pavement. Each stride with my feet sent us sailing down the street, together. I descended hills like a breeze and could climb them again almost as easily. I was so pleased, so proud to be seen with you, and I imagine you felt the same about me.
However, I don't think you remember what life was like before I found you. With six of us kids under one roof and my mother possessing [u]naturally frugal tendencies, we never had new bicycles. As I recall, my first bike ever was a hand-me-down that my dad fixed up and spray-painted magenta at my request. That hot-pink beast was so old that it had solid rubber wheels instead of the typical pneumatic tires one usually sees. Likewise, it had a metal cover over the chain mechanism so I wouldn't scrape my little calves and a hole at the end of each handle where the previous owner had plucked the plastic streamers. I fell off that bicycle often, but each time I climbed back up and eventually learned to balance on my own.
I loved my bikes. Each one slightly bigger than the previous, procured from a family friend or "roadside recycling." I loved the thrill of pedaling full speed down the hill in front of my parents' house. But I dreamed of the day I would have a REAL bicycle with handle breaks and gears. Yes. Gears. Or at least gear changers. At the time I didn't really understand the purpose of these integral bicycle components, but I assumed they had something to do with that sophisticated clicking noise that the bikes of more mature people made (now that I am older and wiser, of course, I realize that the clicking comes from the ratchet in the rear wheel, not the gears at all). But that sound is still just as lovely --- if not lovelier, with you --- as we soar down hills.
Anyways, as soon as I was old enough, I started babysitting with vigor (although why parents trusted their precious children to my eleven-year-old care is a bit baffling... and probably a whole other story). I saved all of my earnings and... well you know the rest.
But today, as we were riding back to my apartment from the Student Union, I realized that the years have not been so kind to you. Yes it is possible I may have mistreated you a bit. Okay, let's admit it, you are in pretty crappy shape. The chain grinds and clatters against the gears, and your paint is chipping in many locations. The rubber on your grip shifters is beginning to tear. And your seat has seen better days, mainly due to the befuddled neighborhood squirrels who have an appetite for synthetic leather and worn yellow foam cushion.
But, to be honest, you do the trick. I don't race; I don't try to maneuver over boulders and roots on mountain trails. I take you to class or the train station or occasionally to make the trek up the hill to the supermarket. I don't need any other bike than you. And through it all, you have been faithful, loyal, dependable. I couldn't ask for anything more. I love you, bicycle!
Here you are, in all your glory: