When I was a kid, I hated that we lived outside of town away from most of the other kids in my school. The distance was a mere three miles, but it felt like 3,000. To my way of thinking, we may as well have lived in another country.
I should probably explain, when I say town, it was small, more like a village. The town was home to a thousand or so people and was the kind of place, that when passing along Main Street, you couldn’t blink or you would miss it. There wasn’t much to the town, old stately homes lined both sides of the road, a bank and post office, two gas stations, a plant that manufactured farm equipment, and lots and lots of Amish horse and buggies.
In any event, I wanted to live where everyone else lived. I would take the bus to school and my parents would ferry me back-and-forth to baseball practice in the spring, football in the fall and to the town community hall for basketball in the winter. In the summer, though, my parents would let me ride my bike to town to play with friends in the park. On the days when my brothers wouldn’t play with me, I took advantage of the offer as much as I could.
Ride like the wind
The start of the ride was awesome. You started out rolling down a long hill that seemed to stretch forever. When I think of that hill now, I think of my daughter. She loves roller coasters, the scarier the better. Let’s just say, she would absolutely love this hill. You flew down the hill. If you weren’t careful, the front wheels on your bike would start to wobble from going so fast, your bike would shutter, and then just like that, the bottom of the hill would come into view and like the best ride that Disneyland or Six Flags can offer, the ride and the experience would be over and the real work would begin.
The rest of the ride felt like torture, especially when the sun beat down and the temperature rose to 90 degrees. It was a challenging ride and took forever. I had to use muscles that I didn’t think I had to get my bike moving and even then I never could seem to generate much speed.
On top of everything else, cars and trucks seemed to fly on the country road and, since there wasn’t much of a berm, you had to be careful to avoid getting hit. Looking back now, I’m surprised my parents even let me make the ride. (This was in the age before helmets were a thing too.) When I finally got to town, I would play with friends until the time came to ride back home.
Through adult eyes
I happened to be back in the area recently for the first time in months and, on a whim, I drove past my parent’s old house. I couldn’t help but notice how much has changed. The tree in the front yard where we used to wash our cars had been cut down and the two chairs on the porch had been removed, but the steps to the house were still red and everything else looked the same. If I didn’t know any better, I could have ran up the steps and swung open the door to tell my mom and dad that I was home from baseball practice.
I turned the car around to drive back to town and, the road that seemed to take forever to bike ride as a kid, whizzed by as adult. I was back in town in a few ticks of the clock. In fact, the road to town didn’t look all that impressive. I could probably run it now, bad knees and all, without too much hassle. Yes, I would need to be careful of the traffic, there still wasn’t much of a berm, but the long, boring stretch of road didn’t look so monstrous.
As I drove past familiar spots, I couldn’t help but notice how time has changed my perception. The huge farmhouse with a sweeping front porch that I thought looked like something out of the TV Show Bonanza and the silo that reminded me of a towering castle in my youth, looked small.
The housing development where many of my friends lived and I once thought looked gigantic, looked small too. The houses seemed to sit on top of each other. I passed my old elementary school and the football field where our coach introduced us to burpees. (Of course, back then the coach didn’t call them burpees, I can’t remember what he called them, but I had a special name for them, Gut Killers.) No matter, the school and field both looked less imposing.
The surrounding cornfields and the rolling mountains still looked huge. They came together and looked like they ran forever. As a kid, I didn’t care much for the fields or the mountains. They were a means to an end. You had to pass them to get to where you were going. Now, though, I went out of my way to take in the scenery and enjoy the peaceful calm.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about my trip home. I see things differently now: many of the things I didn’t care for as a kid, I seem to love now. I’m hoping that means that wisdom really does come with age.