by Genevieve Randall
On rough yellow paper tucked into a file, or a baby book, or a box labeled "Jennie's Stuff" there is a drawing of a girl on a bike climbing a hill. I used it for show-and-tell in either third or fourth grade, because I was proud of my bike trip. I vaguely remember standing in front of a class room, holding up my picture, explaining how I had never ridden so far before, and how my parents weren't sure I could make it all the way to Unadilla-especially with just a little one-speed kids bike on rocky county roads. I still love riding my bike, even now, twenty years later. It provides the same old feelings and thoughts of "if I 'think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . .' all the way up the hill, I will be rewarded with the effortless freedom of coasting down the other side."
I remember being really determined to ride a bicycle. I was always tall for my age, and my long legs were beginning to look awkward coming up above the handlebars of my tricycle. So, my father brought home a bicycle. He had purchased it used from a family whose two little boys had learned to ride on it and grown too big for it. The bike was a rusty brown color and I'm sure my disappointment in its appearance practically screamed out at my father as he tried to proudly present this wonderful thing he had done for me. "It's a boys' bike!" I huffed, crossing my arms indignantly. But not too many hours later, I was convinced of its usefulness. We had cleaned all surfaces, put a bell on the handlebars and exchanged the old seat for a long bright yellow banana seat with metallic gold stripes. I was ready to learn.
Once I had become really emotionally attached to this bike I had learned to ride on, my parents noticed I had grown too big for it too. The prospect of a brand new bike from the store made it acceptable to hand the little brown one down to my younger sister. It was on this new bike-light blue, white banana seat and a Mickey Mouse bell-that I made my journey on county roads between Palmyra and Unadilla. The tires were thick, making the bike practical for both riding on rocky roads and leaving nice black skid marks on the sidewalk. I called my bike "Doozer." In the middle of my love affair with Doozer, my mother had taken me in to see the doctor for my annual check-up. The doctor said she felt that a small mole in the middle of my left thigh should be removed. I've had this done a couple times since then by different procedures, each technique meant to minimize scarring. The following should describe how the procedure they used on my leg did not work for me.
The general practitioner I saw was originally from Sweden. I was fascinated by her accent. Aside from this she was always so nice, giving me stickers, explaining everything and patting me on the back after gagging me with the tongue depressor. How could I question anything she was about to do? I really trusted her. But, no matter how much trust I had in Dr. Jamison or how much I liked her, there was no stopping the total panic that hit when I saw a needle prepped for piercing my skin. In order to take this little mole off my leg, I had to sit up straight on the examining table with my right leg hanging off the side and my left leg sticking straight out, holding it completely still. My mother stood on the left side of the table holding my shoulders and upper body still, whispering reminders in my ear of how I wasn't supposed to move. Dr. Jamison draped a sheet with a hole in it over my lap and centered the opening over the mole. I pressed my leg into the vinyl of the table as she put the needle in and the area around the mole on my leg swelled up into a little mound. What I remember next is looking at a thin little slit about an inch wide with red plastic thread holding it together. The doctor told me how to care for my little wound while showing me how to dress it. I wasn't supposed to bike. Apparently both the doctor and my mother believed me when I told them I wouldn't exert myself, thus tearing out my stitches.
It was only seven miles, but I had never bicycled that far before. It would be rough riding Dad had said. My mother made me promise that my leg was OK. I remember Dad at the end of our driveway with his bike, "You ready?" he shouted. I stood in the doorway of the garage with my bike, "Yeah!" I called back. I looked back at Mom who was standing in the doorway to the house squinting at me sideways. It was a really tough ride. Dad was so much stronger than I was and I had never climbed hills so steep. There were rocked roads and dirt roads. Sometimes we had to stop in the middle of a hill to get off to the side and let a car pass and I would have to walk my bike the rest of the way up. It didn't take me long to master the art of reaching down to grab my bike bottle while coasting downhill, squirt a little water in my mouth and put it back.
Later, I sat in my Grandmother's kitchen eating the best cookies that were ever created, when I told her that I thought my leg hurt a little bit. My father had gone back to Palmyra to get his truck and come pick me up. I was too worn out to make the trip back on my bike. My Grandmother said, "Hmm. Better have another cookie." In my own kitchen at my parent's house, I sat on the edge of a wooden chair carefully peeling the medical tape back and lifting the bandage to look at my wound. My father shook his head, "Mm . . .mm . . . mm . . ." My mother made that sucking sound someone makes at a paper cut, and I looked closely at my leg. The stitches were pulled across a shiny, wet area of white and red. It was sore, but I took my skin with my fingers and was able to squeeze the sides of the cut together. I could envision how it was supposed to have looked. My mother sighed. "Well, we'll see what the doctor says." The doctor scolded. "What did I tell you?" she asked. I felt guilty for destroying her work. She offered two options: living with a white spot in the middle of my thigh for the rest of my life, or having the wound re-cut and re-stitched in the hopes it would look a little better. I wanted no more scalpels and no more stitches. I didn't really want a white spot in the dead center of my leg either.
It gets fainter with the years, I think. Either that or I'm getting more and more used to it. One thing I like about it: Sometimes, when it rains, it hurts a little. It's like a little gnome is in there pinching my leg from the inside to tell me I can't go biking--too wet out. It's my own built-in barometer.