Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gabriel and The Sea Star: A Boy and His Pink Bike

Gabriel and The Sea Star: A Boy and His Pink Bike
Beth Myler

When our first son Gabriel turned two his Pop-Pop (my Dad) bought him a cool tricycle with a bright blue seat and shiny yellow hubcaps. It had a back bucket for a drink, snacks or treasures from the road and even had a handle that I could use to push him when his little legs got too tired for peddling. The first time he got on it and held the handle bars I could see his face light up. He tried like crazy to reach the peddles but was just shy of getting a good foot hold. Every month that Fall he seemed to grow a little more and finally he could reach them and actually move. We would peddle a little and then stop and collect wood chips and pretend they were bricks and he was “Bob the Builder” fixing someone’s roof.

With all of the stopping and the obsession with filling up the bucket, I would say we actually rode less than 50% of the time. But, it was wonderful to see him gradually master the peddling and start to really take off on the thing. This was a thrill for him too. He would lean back into the seat and push with all his might until I was running after him. I thought he would love his trike forever.

When we moved to NJ the next year that Gabriel turned three, he hooked up with a pre-school bike gang at the local playground. They were a great and imaginative bunch who welcomed the new guy with open arms and invitations to join their chase (always a bad guy, a police station, a fire or some emergency to attend to). The problem was that all the other kids had two wheelers (really four counting the training wheels). At first, Gabriel was so enthralled with being included in the biking games that he didn’t seem to notice. But, after a while, every day he would wait until one of the other kids got off of their bike for lunch, and he would ask their Mom for a quick turn. He would cry every time he had to give a two-wheeler back. He was so much higher up and getting on and off was a snap.

My husband and I both agreed that he was ready for an upgrade, but we didn’t want to buy a brand new bike when the summer was almost over. So, we went to our local consignment shop. Gabriel was so excited he was shaking all over when we pulled up. We went inside and asked the owner about bikes his size. She shook her head and said all she had was “a girl’s bike.” Gabriel looked puzzled, and asked, “What does that mean Mommy?” then before she could say anything else he saw his new love and there was no separating them. “Mom” he screamed, “Look at this one, it’s perfect!” He was already sitting in the seat and circling the area. Her seat was white but the handle bars, peddles, wheel covers and trimming were all a bright, shiny fuchsia pink. “The Sea Star” was written in lovely aqua blue bubble letters across her bar. Little decals with sea shells covered her well-loved frame. I looked at the price tag: $14 bucks.

At this point, Gabriel was on his knees begging for the bike and I loved that he didn’t have any clue that a pink bike with sea shells was anything other than “the perfect one.” I wondered what the gang would say when we showed up, but Gabriel and I had a short and sweet conversation about how some people think that only girls like pink, but that pink is a color that anyone can like. I also added that, “No matter what anyone says, that bike is COOL!”

We headed to the playground the next day. Gabriel was smiling from ear to ear, and there was no rock collecting involved. He was all about speed. He cruised into the basketball court, pink handles shining, screaming, “Look at my new bike! It’s COOL.” Turns out that the favorite color of one of the oldest boys in the gang (4 and a half) was pink! The other kids also seemed to dig the new ride and not a snicker was uttered among the bunch.

Gabriel is so quick on The Sea Star now that he recently shredded the plastic training wheels. We went to the store to look for some replacements and all they had were purple wheels with yellow stars. We bought ‘em. Our friends and neighbors seem to enjoy sightings of Gabriel in town on his bike. I’m sure from a distance with his blond locks peeking out from underneath his helmet and his delicate little face and blue eyes, our new neighbors may think he’s a girl as he whizzes past their homes chasing bad guys and fighting fires. I have moments of heart-swelling pride when he flies by and especially when he says to others, “Yeah, some people think this is a girl’s bike, but any one can like pink, and I’m a boy.”

I wonder sometimes if my second son Nolan (10 months) will inherit The Sea Star in a few years. Will Gabriel then be old and jaded by society’s standard gender rules and make fun of his brother? Will this ruin the magic? Or, will he, upon rediscovering the bike in the garage, feel a deep and instant connection to the memories of his first real bike? I know that had this all happened when Gabriel was in junior high we never would have gotten past the door of the consignment shop window. But, I like to believe that with The Sea Star in our lives my boys and I are helping to make some lasting waves.

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