March 31, 2010

A Bicycle Built for Two

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.


Teresa Evangeline said...

I Love your Nana. That is my wish, to stay "fully engaged in life." This is a wonderful post, Chris. Speaks to my heart and my own center of gravity, which is, for me, a move-able feast. : )

Love, love , love this post. Beautifully written. Thank you.

Sea Mist and Sunsets said...

Thank you so much. Nana would have loved you and your spirit of adventure. A move-able feast to be sure. Thanks too for sharing what you see and experience out there. We travel with you and are grateful for the journey.

Anonymous said...

Really good writing and family history to boot. Nana was quite a woman. That newspaper clipping of her on the bicycle tells a lot. Interesting how we can remember the tone and affect of those voices. Horseback to jet -- I like that. Yes, the first bicycle ride -- Mother steered me then let go and I crashed into a parked car. But, I got back up and bicycled until I went to high school. Was she a grandmother on your dad's or mother's side? Chrissie -- a turn on your name because of affection. I miss those old souls. I do like the clipping photo. I really liked this post. -- Jack.

Sea Mist and Sunsets said...

Missed this Jack. Apologies. That was quite a biking start you had with the car. You and I were lucky in life to have a few steering assists to get us started. Confidence builders, those mothers. Nana was my paternal grandmother and a Flowers. Pappy was a Cassidy. Yes, the turn on the name. You're right, not many left. My three aunts in CA and some of my cousins still hold on to it. Transports me back in time with each use. Plus that tone and effect you mentioned.

Basket gal said...

Love this post...thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Nana was 102. My, what an adventure. I do miss my grandparents and aunts and uncles. My aunts and uncles were so much a part of my life. My grandmother on my mother's side taught me so much. She hiked with me for five miles when I was a Boy Scout to get my First Class badge. Those grandmothers and grandfathers of old were so good and so generous -- we were lucky. That's why I go out of my way and spend time with my grandkids -- a payback for what was done to me. Thanks, Chris.

Sea Mist and Sunsets said...

Thanks much. I fear you may have heard all these old tales a time or two before. : ) Hugs to you!

Sea Mist and Sunsets said...

Love that your grandmother took the five mile hike with you for the badge. I agree, grandparents, aunts and uncles from that time were generous; with love and lessons. Along with my mother, they really formed me as well. My mother passed away twenty four years ago. My dear, dear aunts (her sisters) stepped right in without missing a beat. We talk each week and hearing their voices is a priceless gift. I'm so glad you had this in your life as well. I have no doubt your grandchildren adore you in the same way we adored ours. Heck, you were a shoe-in with all those horses. : )

Kittie Howard said...

OMG, Chris, your post truly touched my yeart. Your Nana was, is (for she lives) my kinda woman...oh how I'd have loved to have traveled with her...I can hear her infectous laughter now, see the enthusiasm in her twinkling that bicycle photo...and the D.C. conversation, wow! This is a great post and a great tribute to a great woman. Well done!!

Taos Sunflower said...

Chris: I love your post. You are fortunate to have such a woman as your inspiration. Also that you had a nana you can recall...mine were both gone by 4 years old. 102 years old...that's is a good gene pool to draw from!

art spirit said...

Hi chris,
enjoy your blog so much...what a great grandmother!
Your photos-always an inspirarion!

Taos Sunflower said...

You're so fortunate to have this memory!

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