If memory serves, the handwritten note on the deeply yellowed newspaper photo read June, 1927. Need be, I will correct the number when I happen upon the paper again. The setting... Main street of a small farming community in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley of California, where a parade is underway.
Each time I look at this captured moment from long ago, I want to reach out and steady the riders. The position of the handle bars, peddlers and bike all take me back to my first spin on such a conveyance. Wobbly at best, but oh so fun. I do hope you've had that experience as well.
Sometimes it seems we spend our lives dancing with the center of gravity, learning to trust and find balance as we go. Much like riding a bicycle built for two.
These riders have my admiration. In that part of the country in June, it was and is HOT. By the convention of the day they were dressed in heavy hose, fitted dresses and probably struggling between needed concentration and bursts of laughter, as they made their way along the parade route. Rather daring for two women in 1927. That is how I like to remember my grandmother (Nana), the lead rider, as daring convention. And she did, in many ways.
Born in Texas in 1885, she later made the move to California with her husband, by train in 1913. They worked side-by-side as they saved to open their first of a small chain of stores. Before they could realize that dream World War One arrived (1918) taking my grandfather (Pappy) to Washington for Army training. Rather than staying at home, Nana followed him to be near by, as he went through basic training at Fort Lewis. She lived in a boarding house and recalled it in detail when I later moved to Washington. I can still hear her voice on the phone..."Now Chrissie, just catch the trolley to 15th, go up the hill four blocks and the house will be on your left. I wonder if the owner is still there? Do be careful, I had a man follow me from the trolley stop once, right up to the house. Tell Mrs. .... I said hello if you see her." Nana was one hundred years of age at the time of the conversation. That trolley? It lives in photos at the historical museum.
During the war she returned to Texas to be near her parents and sisters. Following the war, after spending time in France and Germany, Pappy returned to Texas where once again he and his wife boarded the train for California in search of their dreams. Those dreams were realized with determination, good business sense, hard work and humor. When their children reached high school age, off Nana and the kids went to Detroit to pick up a car and drive it home. She decided it made no sense to go that far without going all the way, so on they drove covering the East coast top to bottom. The photo of them smiling from atop the Empire State Building says it all. Fine choice, no fear.
She loved to travel and would have done more had Pappy enjoyed it. In the 50's she visited Mexico, Hawaii and other places, always returning with fun tales. I think Nana found her strongest center of gravity when she traveled. While adventuring. When breaking with convention. Making the most of a lifetime that took her from horseback to jet. For one hundred and two years she stayed fully engaged in life. That was the true adventure. Miss you Nana.