By Phyllis J. Lubin
I remember my first bicycle: it was bright red and had training wheels and a “Phyllis” license plate that my Bubby Lily had sent me all the way from California, which I affixed to my bicycle basket.
Not that long after I practiced with the training wheels, my dad removed them. After a few times with my dad running behind me with his hand securely on the seat as we raced down Westwood Road, I was practically flying on my own!
I remember that feeling of freedom I had on that bicycle! I could get almost anywhere in a much shorter amount of time than walking.
A couple of years passed and my dad promoted me to a 26-inch two-wheel bicycle. At first I was apprehensive about riding such a big bike, but once I adapted to the big-girl bike there was almost no stopping me! I would ride all over town: errands to the nearby supermarket; jaunts to my friend Ilana in Hewlett, and even a few trips to school on Washington Avenue when I somehow missed the school bus. I felt like a free agent then!
And then a couple of years later I passed my driving test at 16, and when I turned 17 I exchanged my bicycle lock key for car keys to transport myself to Queens College. There was no easing into highway driving, since the highway is just about the only way I know how to get to Queens from this neighborhood. Somehow my daughters have missed this quick highway training program (out of necessity), while my eldest son took off on the highways as soon as he received his license, transporting himself to my alma mater in Queens as well. My eldest daughter went off to Binghamton and had no need to get on the highway herself, Rivka travels to Stern by train, and now Rochel has become extremely savvy getting around the Albany area by public buses.
But I digress . . . Once I had my driver’s license, somehow the bike-riding fell to the wayside. My independence behind the wheel of a car was vastly greater than my prior bike riding, and sadly my exercise via biking diminished.
Fast forward a few years. When we were first married, Leib and I ventured away from the Five Towns area (he from “West Lawrence”/Far Rockaway and me from Woodmere) to far-off Flatbush! Upon our return to the neighborhood after our Brooklyn detour of six years, we landed in Cedarhurst and one of my first purchases (after the house) was a bicycle. We had finally returned to the suburbs and I craved my bicycle excursions.
And so began my all-too-brief re-love affair with the bike. I would ride to Loehmann’s and sometimes I even rode as far away as Weight Watchers in Lynbrook. My folks surprised Leib one day with a snazzy yellow bike they happened upon at a yard sale, and so he got on the biking bandwagon and we would spend Sunday mornings on the Long Beach boardwalk. On a few occasions I even rode to Avnet Country Day when I was really adventurous.
At some point my bike affinity slowed down. As I got older (and lazier), I found reasons to avoid the bike: the seat was not comfortable, the brakes squeaked, the wheel seemed crooked—so finally, after a few years of non-use, it was put out for special pick-up when we did our pre-fall clean-up. I thought it wouldn’t bother me; after all, I could use my feet for exercise, and as soon as Memorial Day arrived I had Sunny Atlantic for my favorite sport: swimming.
But somehow what you don’t have, you often miss. Now that my bike was no longer sitting in the shed, I romanticized my bike-riding life.
A few years ago I bought my husband a birthday present: a hybrid Trek bike. This bike, I decided after perusing the choices at the local bike store, was pretty much the Cadillac of bicycles. But not the Rolls Royce—you would be shocked at how expensive a bicycle can be!
My husband rides his bike almost religiously on Sunday and Friday mornings during the summer season, and a few bonus rides when he has a chance. I, on the other hand, am not quite as ambitious. I want a bike as a more occasional rider. After one visit to the local bike shop where I purchased my husband’s bike, I realized that this store was meant for the more “frum” bike rider. My bike was destined to be found at either Kmart, Target, or Walmart.
After narrowing down the type of bike I wanted at the fancy bike shop (a “cruiser” with hand breaks and speeds), much to my family’s anxiety, I spent weeks trolling the internet and visiting the three source stores (since you never know what new stock would arrive on any given day).
Finally, I found my dream bike on my most recent Walmart trip. It’s a 26” Schwinn Clairmont Women’s Cruiser Bike with the wide handlebars, hand brakes, and speeds that I wanted. The only thing missing is a front basket like I had when I was a kid!
This past Friday, in honor of my husband’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Leib!), I went on a brief excursion with him around the neighborhood. I’m a bit “bicyclely” out-of-shape and will need to practice to become a smoother rider, but I made it on our short jaunt to the Woodmere docks and thereabout. I’m not so sure that a trip to Avnet Country Day will happen so soon, but I can see myself joining my husband on an occasional trip on the boardwalk.
Father’s Day arrived and there was much preparation to be done. Per our tradition, I swam while Leib biked on the boardwalk, and then my shopping and cooking began.
What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday! The sky was blue and the weather could not have been more perfect. It was absolutely terrific spending the evening with our nearest and dearest: my folks, in-laws, Uncle Harris, Aunt Ora, Cousin Yaakov, Uncle Arthur, and our good friend Sheila, my children: Naftali and Nina, Rochel, Yosef, Lea, and my eldest daughter who prefers to remain anonymous—all except Rivka who is spending the summer in Israel but called in with fond Father’s Day wishes.
I still marvel at the cell phone. Yes, I am old enough to remember a time before cell phones. I remember how difficult it was to even make a call from Israel to the United States. I have a vague recollection of phone centers and needing to wait on line to make a quite costly overseas telephone call. Today it is almost a requirement to own a cell phone, and going abroad is no different. There is no mystery anymore. I can find out what my daughter is up to at almost any time; although she is thousands of miles away, she truly is only a phone call away! She seems to be in constant on-the-go mode while on her Birthright trip. I pray she will make memories that will last a lifetime.
While Rivka was enjoying her experiences in the Holy Land, we at home were feasting on all our barbecue fare. We had way too much food, but better too much than too little! We had all our favorite dads in attendance, and I hope they all enjoyed as much as we did.
No, I didn’t actually ride my bike on Father’s Day, or even since last Friday, but knowing that it is safe in my garage is all I need to make me feel like a bike rider right now! v
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children—Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea—and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.