The bike that I received for my birthday near the end of March had something even more spectacular than the flowered banana seat, it had a basket — a white wicker basket just below the handlebars. Each day that pre-spring (end of winter) I got off from the school bus, put my books in the basket, opened the garage door, and watched for any sign of gravel beneath the snow.
Near the end of April’s slush, I put on my mittens, my rain boots, and braved the scattered gravel patches of Van Dyke road. I returned home with a skunk like stripe of wet gravel from the back of my boots to the top of my neck, never happier. I retold the glorious tale of each turn of the pedal as my mother peeled off my layers. “You brought Big Suzy with you?” she asked. Big Suzy was my off brand “Raggedy Ann” doll, twice the size, (hence the “Big”), and not red, but bright yellow. “I would never ever leave her behind,” I said. And I didn’t. Even when the snow was gone, the ice melted, when my basket was filled with my a giant towel and flip flops, I put Big Suzy in the basket and rode off to Lake Latoka. Her smile never left her face, nor mine.
I suppose when one parent leaves, you’re always a little worried about the other. (The things we carry.) I thought I hid them, these fears, but she knew — my mother knew my every layer. Even when I outgrew the banana seat, the dolls…even when winter after winter she remained as faithful as spring, my heart’s basket held that tiny doubt that would pop up into my path, and when I carried it, when she saw it, she looked at me and smiled, “Suzy…” she said, and I was saved.