“Kathleen is one decade old.”

That’s my older brother Brian talking. What was a decade? “It’s 10 years.” I always learned something from him. And here it was, my 10th birthday, Oct. 11, 1963. We were back from my dad’s tour of duty in Tachikawa, Japan. It was a school day, so as was the usual birthday morning practice, my mother had presents laid out for me. The five of us kids, in the melee of getting ready for the school bus, somehow had breakfast (sugary cereal, I’m certain), got dressed and I opened presents.

I can’t remember how Mum did “the big reveal,” but there it was, a huge sky-blue Schwinn bicycle with fat tires and chrome book rack on the back, white handle holders, with colored plastic ribbons streaming from them. I was in awe of such a grand thing. Discussions of money, and the lack thereof, were frequent and painful in my house.

Sudden wailing from my little sister, age 8. “I want a bicycle!!!!! Wah!”

Drat. My mother was sympathetic. “Just let her ride it for a minute.” And she did. Then I got it back and I was never going to let anyone take it again. I still recall Jo riding around the backyard, on my new bike. It didn’t seem fair, but she was so happy, feet barely reaching the pedals.

I taught myself to ride the bike with no hands, pedaling like a big shot around the base neighborhood. We rode our bikes everywhere, not in the fashion of cycling today – that trend came in the late 1970s with the movie “Breaking Away.” I was just a goofy 10-year-old with hair flying, no sense of how I looked, off to meet friends for a summer morning game of croquet or to the base pool for a day of splashing.

This October I’ll turn 70 years old. And I haven’t had a bike for a very long time. But as I settle into my winter place in Charleston, South Carolina – where, in February, you can ride in 77-degree weather – a vision appears. It’s less blue, but now a light sage green bike, a “beach cruiser,” they call them. It has a small basket on the front and fat tires. I can buy a used one with a flat tire for $40. My son-in-law Nick can fix it.

And where will I ride it? I’ll tootle around our neighborhood, hair flying, hoping to get back that innocence, saying, “Good morning,” waving to passing cars. Just enjoying the breeze, yes, in February, and watching the birds dive and dip over the creek. I’ll remember that a decade is 10 years. And now I’ve lived almost seven of them. I say “God willing” a lot these days, hoping not to hex my chances of hanging around this planet a good long while. I want a chocolate birthday cake with candles ablaze, and my sister Joanne can have the biggest piece. And, yes, I’ll let her take that bike for a spin.

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