It’s about eight hours to tipoff of the NCAA women’s tournament so … one little story before the madness begins.
Thursday here in the Heartland, it was a 60-degree day, good for going out walking and seeing something like this: A little girl, maybe 7 or 8, on a purple bicycle she is just learning to ride, with no training wheels, saying, “Hey, I’m going fast … uh-oh, I’m going REALLY fast … Mom, look at this …. Mom, are you still back there?”
Of course, her mom was still back there, walking not even very far behind. But when you’re 7 or 8 on your brand-new bike in March in the Midwest after a long, cold, snowy, seemingly endless winter and you are realizing that you really are getting the hang of this bike-riding thing … wow, it feels like you might be moving along at such great speeds you’re leaving poor Mom as just a distant speck behind you.
I speak from experience, having once been 8 on a new purple bike in March the very first possible day to take it out when it was deemed “warm enough” by Mom and there wasn’t too much snow still on the ground. It was one of those afternoons where the sun was fighting a losing battle with the clouds, but at least it was fighting. The earth smelled like everything was waking up.
The tough thing about getting a new bike for Christmas when you live someplace where there are real winters is that it mostly sits in your house like an overwhelming temptation for more than two months after it becomes yours. At least it was that way in the winter of 1973-74 when my bike sat and sat and sat …. waiting for spring, for me to prove that the end of the previous summer hadn’t been a fluke when I learned to ride on a friend’s bike.
Do you remember the exact moment you learned to tie your shoes, and the exact moment you knew you were REALLY riding a bicycle? I figure they must be the two most significant accomplishments of childhood.
My first afternoon out with the new bike … well, the truth can now be told. (Although I certainly didn’t tell my mother this at the time). I rode all over town (a place with a population of about 400, so it wasn’t exactly a grand feat to take in the whole thing) and during this excursion … I also ran into a parked car and cruised right into a ditch. Because I had the briefest periods of freezing up at the very idea I was actually in control of this “powerful” machine. It was as if I forgot the brakes existed until the last second before impact.
The fact that neither I nor the bike were any worse for wear despite these mishaps is a pretty good indicator my rate of speed wasn’t nearly what I thought it was. But at the time, it seemed the very essence of freedom – and of springtime – was having your own bike with which to race along the streets and sidewalks, imagining people were staring out their windows, shaking their heads in a mixture of admiration, envy and disbelief, thinking, “Good heavens! Can you believe how fast that kid is going?”
So, yes, Thursday was a perfect day for seeing a new rider feeling that the world was zooming past her until she safely dropped her feet to the ground, halted her rocket-like bike and turned around to check if she might have to reverse course and go back to say, “Oh, gee, Mom, sorry I lost you.”
And Friday? Well, it snowed again.
Sure, Winter, go ahead and throw your last flurry of punches. We all know you are soon going down for the count. You can’t stop that purple bike. You can’t even hope to contain it.