Back in July when we started riding, my sister's only bike was about 35 years old. It was pretty much unworkable, so she rode the mountain bike Meghan (her daughter) took to college seven years ago. It's a fine bike, but the tires are small and wide and the frame didn't fit Deb well. She struggled. She was always a pretty good distance behind the group, which she absolutely hated.
Liz and Brendan bought new bikes pretty early on, and Deb and I fell for Liz's new bike, with its shock absorbers and smooooth operation. The night we test-rode it, we each went home calculating how and when we could buy one. Deb rarely buys anything for herself and things are a bit tight for her right now. It wasn't going to happen.
Although I love Molly, she's about 20 years old. She squeaks and creaks. She has no shocks. She's heavy. I lusted after a new bike for several days, imagining it would make riding much easier. But I sailed across the trail while Deb struggled behind me. In the early days, I had to bribe her with fruit smoothies, and Deb literally stumbled into the juice bar, red faced and gasping for air.
For me, a new bike would be nice. For Deb, it could make the difference between riding or giving up. My folks agreed to help, and together we bought Deb a shiny new bike. She caught me putting it into her car and protested. I told her the bike fairies had left it. She sobbed. In fact, she cried every time she told someone about her new bike. On the bike's maiden voyage, Deb was first to the juice bar. She never looked back.
Deb's husband Jim started joining us, riding a bike Dad used to take when he and Mom traveled in the motor home. It's a good bike, but it's about 15 years old and has thumb shifters. None of us ever figured out how the gears worked, but Jim pedaled on, my most faithful riding companion. As his birthday approached in August, I started a movement and, together, the group played bike fairy for him. He was beyond thrilled.
Molly worked her magic on me, and I came to appreciate her vintage nature. Like me, she was old but still going strong, and her slight vagaries seemed eccentric and charming. I no longer lusted after a new bike, but I have to admit that once or twice I imagined the feeling of everyone ganging up to do something special for me. I put the thought away quite firmly and continued to appreciate Molly. In fact, I came to love her fiercely.
Last Friday morning, we arrived at the first trail head. As Brendan unloaded the bikes, I stopped into the restroom. When I walked back to the truck, Meghan called to me, "Aunt Jerri. Can I ride Molly today?"
"Sure, Sweetie. What do you want me to ride?" I genuinely had no idea.
"Well. How about this new bike the bike fairies left here for you?" Meghan stepped out from behind the truck, rolling a shiny new bike with a red Gerbera daisy attached to the handle bars.
I looked from the bike to Meg and then to each of the faces suddenly surrounding me. Deb. Jim. Liz. Brendan. The love in their shining eyes, their joy at surprising me so completely, overwhelmed me. I cried. They laughed in delight. I sobbed.
Shock absorbers are fine, fine things.