When my husband came home one day and exclaimed, “I want to buy a motorcycle” I cringed, thinking: Oh God. Yeah, that’s what I really want more than anything else, is to become a prune-faced, helmeted, living cliche of the MID-LIFE CRISIS. I said, “That’s nice dear” and hoped this cock-eyed desire would pass. It didn’t.
Over the next few months my husband would grow glassy-eyed extolling the virtues of “Born to Be Wild”. “That sense of breaking free, being out in the open, with the wind in your hair, the incredible smells, there is no other experience that comes close to riding a motorcycle. Can you imagine?” he’d ask.
Sure I could. I pictured bugs in my canines, the stench of diesel trucks, and every bump on the road emphasizing the lack of fat protecting my tail bone. “Hmmm….” I said. “Maybe, someday….”
Like almost everyone I went through a period of fascination with motorcycles in my youth. Back then joining a motorcycle gang was the equivalent of becoming blood brothers with Alice Cooper. You would have to cover your body in tattoos, stop taking baths, and possibly consider snatching children off the street. I grew up with a notion that bikers are the bad guys, and while there was a certain point during my teenage years when I empathized with the rebels, with time and the settling down of wild adolescent hormones, that feeling passed.
One day in August, my husband came home shouting: “I passed the motorcycle course!” He danced around the room waving an armload of magazines: Canadian Biker, Motorcycle Cruiser. Soon no dinner conversation was complete without comparisons of ‘shaft drives, chassis and drive trains’. Soon I could rhyme off all the names of the top seven middle weight cruisers: Honda Shadow, Vulcan Class, Suzuki Volusia. (to tune of supracallafrajalistick…) but I still hoped, deep down, that my husband’s new obsession would pass. When we drove by the local Tim Horton’s, known as Chrome Corner, where all the local bikers liked to park and polish their exhaust pipes, I worried. How far would this go?
One bright Sunday morning I drove north, so my husband could pick up his second-hand Suzuki Volusia. As I followed him home, through the back woods, across two rivers by ferries, and on the TransCanada highway, there was no mistaking his joy. He looked like a kid who had just opened the best Christmas present ever. Our neighbors and friends ooh’d and ah’d and all wanted to know, ‘When are you getting on it?” Hmmmmm, I said.
One Saturday I was at a workshop. A woman, Jamie, that I recognized from a weekly prayer group sat at my table to eat lunch. She was talking about a bunch of things when suddenly I overheard her say, “Arthur and I went for a ride, and got carried away. We were late for communion, so pulled into the church on the bike. You should have seen the look on Father Ron’s face when we walked down the aisle.” “What?” I asked. “What did you say?” I could not believe what I was hearing. I could not compute that Jamie–who looked like the sort of mild-mannered grandmother you see behind a table in the church foyer selling tickets to the afghan raffle—with the images I related to motorcycles, tattoos, arm wrestling, chairs crashing over people’s heads.
“My husband, Arthur, always wanted a motorcycle,” Jamie said. “I refused to let him even think about it. And then, 3 years ago, they discovered the cancer in his bowel.” Her eyes grew misty. “Afterwards, after all the chemotherapy, one test after another, the waiting, always the waiting for someone to tell you that your life can go on………..I told Arthur, buy your motorcycle…please.”
I have a 4 foot high teddy bear. When my husband brought his new motorcycle home, he strapped it on the back of his motorcycle, and rode with it everywhere. “I’m going to keep it there,” he said, “until you start riding with me.”
I told him it was time to take it off.
As we zoomed along the river, the wind in our face, the sun sinking behind the darkening hills, the smell of peppery wildflowers filling my nose, I got an inkling of thrill my husband had been experiencing. And I realized that it wasn’t bikes or bikers that I feared at all. It was my own long ago cast off reckless need to rebel, to cast off all that was expected of me, and just live in the moment, open, waiting, expectant, trusting that whatever came around the next bend would reveal exactly what I was meant to be doing. Turns out, riding on the back of the motorcycle is the perfect time to loosen the knots in novel plots and let the imagination catch fire.