|Ms. Ruthie (Mom)|
I’d pestered my mom to take a ride on Big Red for years. On her 79th birthday she said, “Oh, I’ll ride when I’m 80!”
When the next year rolled around, I made a special trip from Oregon to spend her birthday with her and give her that ride. It was time for Mom to walk her talk.
The morning of July 5, 2000, dawned much cooler than any of us expected. But at 6:30 a.m. on her 80th birthday, Mom showed up at my house, as planned. She climbed out of her car and I greeted her, “Hey, Mama! Are you ready to ride?” I moved toward her to give her a hug.
We walked hand-in-hand to the house. “Well, I might as well be,” she said. “Hmmph,” she eyed Big Red, parked at the curb. “Today that motorcycle looks about the size ‘a that little model on my bookcase!”
Our friend Trudy came over to ride with us and to photograph the event. Mom had known her for several years and liked her. And I felt more comfortable having Trudy along -- just in case.
After a bit of conversation over coffee and a Happy Birthday and encouragement call from my sister Reenié, we were ready to ride. I took Mom through the mounting procedure and told her what she needed to do, where she could hold on, and where to put her feet. “Your jobs, Mama, are to just go with the bike and to wave at other motorcyclists.”
Clad in jeans and a denim jacket, she also wore my extra candy apple red helmet. She mentioned feeling “top-heavy” but with a little help from Trudy and me, Mom maneuvered into Big Red’s passenger seat. I connected her helmet cord into the intercom system so we could communicate.
“Okay, I’m on this thing. Let’s go!” she said. After a ride around the block to get the feel of the bike and to practice stopping, we took off to the south of town.
As we traveled west, I heard Mom’s breathy voice over the intercom. “Annis! How many pounds will this bike hold?”
“Enough, Mama. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Trudy came up even with us in the next lane and took photos. We turned north at Buena Vista, passing by sleepy Stockdale High summer school students on their way to classes. Trudy sped ahead to Mimi’s Café, where we would celebrate Mom’s birthday.
As we neared the restaurant, I spotted Trudy. She’d already parked her motorcycle and was ready to capture Mom and me on video. Mama took her job seriously. She waved to Trudy and to another motorcyclist who turned the corner while we waited for the light.
Once seated inside the restaurant, I asked, “Well how did you like the ride, Mom?”
“It was great -- just like riding in a rumble seat of an old Ford. If you know what a rumble seat is.”
After breakfast, Mom became a little cocky. She quipped that she could just run alongside the bike. We laughed and, once geared up, she remounted, ready to go. When we finally arrived at the house, we’d clocked 19.2 miles according to Big Red's odometer.
“I’m glad I did it. It was fun, and I’d do it again sometime,” she said once she stood on firm ground. I unbuckled her helmet, but she pulled it off herself and said, “I’m old hat at this now.”
I will never forget that day. My chest swelled with overwhelming pride and gratitude for the trust she’d placed in me. Tears formed in my eyes and I threw my arms around my mother. All I could get out was “Thanks, Mom. Happy Birthday.” She looked at me, and I knew that she understood everything I couldn’t say.
~ xoA ~