Indoors, tricycles are amazing. In the midst of a long, harsh, winter, my mother graciously allowed my siblings and me to bring our tricycles inside to ride them up and down the polished hardwood floors of the hallway. I remember that era as one the best of my life. I doubt my mother remembers it at all.
It should not surprise anyone that she would not recollect those days. She was very young, had at least four children under five at the time and was trapped in what was affectionately known as, “army quarters.” To the uninitiated, army quarters can be anything from Quonset huts to large mansions, or anything in-between. For this occasion, our quarters were deluxe: 2000 square feet on the second floor of an old hospital wing that had been designated as large family housing. It was huge.
One day, the army’s fumigation unit paid us a visit. Can you imagine our terror when those “big men” in full protective regalia with army-green sprayers on their backs came to the door? They were probably teenagers, but even 17-year-old army men look big when you are four years old. After mother invited them in, they methodically pushed the furniture from the walls to the center of the rooms so they could spray the baseboards. For some reason, our wide closets had entrance and exit doors.
Those closets had been packed tightly as long as I could remember, but on this magical day, every item was removed from them and placed on the beds in each room’s center. Wide-eyed, we kids carefully observed the fumigation preparation proceedings and seriously followed the men from room to room in silence.
We walked on the only floor space available, which was next to the walls, so it was only a matter of time before one of us had the Great Idea. I would love to take credit for the notion, but I really do not remember who thought of it first: tricycle races!
A more wonderful toddler racetrack was never designed by anyone at Nastar. It started at the front door, around the living room, down the wide hallway, into and out of each bedroom closet, onto the screened-in porch and back around to the front door. Hugging the walls and measuring about three feet wide, the course took about five minutes to complete. It was perfect.
My mom may have gone out to have her hair washed and set during the next few hours, because I cannot recall her being there at all. We were completely enchanted and captivated by the amazing new racetrack. Careening, screeching and crashing in riotous frenzy, we finally collapsed for our naps. Fumes from bug spray never fazed us. For one glorious day, we were free of the monotonous restraints of winter domestic toddler existence. We were tricycle-racing competitors; nothing ever was so delightful.
The racket must have been deafening, particularly to the people living downstairs. It still surprises me that my normally dignified, proper mother allowed us to ride with such reckless abandon, but she did. My own children rarely get such grand opportunities. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that although my parents were not rich or famous, they fiercely loved my siblings and me. Their love for us was solid and secure, but also allowed for spontaneity and fun. I thank the Lord that they demonstrated selflessness and self-sacrifice, not typical parents’ self-preservation.