Tuesday, September 15, 2009

no you can't

Most everyone from my demographic category (past fifty, raised in Europe) will say that our parents tracked our lives less than we track the lives of our children. But my parents, championing independence from (it seems) the moment of my birth (I can give examples!), were especially hands-off.

So much was there an absence of directives (especially of the “don’t do that” type), that I recall vividly the three times during my teen years when my parents said “no!”

Thinking back, only once were they right (“no! you cannot go to Afghanistan!”). I was 19, but, as a Pole, I could not travel to most countries unless I used my dad’s diplomatic papers, so their “no” was a deal breaker. Good thing. That was one ill-conceived trip.

But remembering another “no!,” the one where I learned I could not move around Manhattan on a bike -- I kind of think, even now, that it was misplaced.

[The third "no!" isn’t something I want to mention, because you, on this side of the ocean, would dislike my parents for it and it is not my intention to create blog hostility toward either my mom or dad.]

I was already 18 and on my own, so their “no!” to the bicycle was a symbolic kind of shout down, but it was loud and rare and so I retreated and used the bus.

This morning, as I manipulated my bike across four lanes of University Avenue during rush hour (to get to the left turning lane), I thought maybe I am latently (very latently) asserting myself, as in: I can bike wherever I damn want to!

Most of my morning bike route is along a tame path by Lake Mendota. It requires no concentration and so I offer it none.


I daydream as I pedal. Someday I wont notice a rut and I’ll end up veering off into the lake. So there is greater danger in the benign.

But my satisfaction comes from that initial urban crossing of the four lanes. A sense of pleasure in mastering a skill that my parents never intended for me.

Let me add a post script to past night's note here. I was commenting then about shirtless men. I'll give equal time now to another category of underclothed student: the one with a bare foot. On warm days, common as pie.