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Of Bicycles and Freedom

Noelle Zingarella


It’s been a frustrating week at the Zingarella house. We’re all fine, but our van is in need of major, and expensive repairs, to the point that we’re looking for a new vehicle. We live in an area where having a car to get anywhere is essential, although we make do with one for the whole family. Since there are six of us, that means a van (a total mom-mobile, too). Hopefully we are nearing the end of the process of replacing the broken one, but it has not been fun.

I think I find it particularly irksome because, for years, I didn’t own a car at all. When I was single and living in the city, I got around via public transit and my beloved bicycle. A bicycle has been a symbol of freedom for me since I was a teenager—even more so than a car. From the time I was eleven or twelve, I would ride my bicycle around the smallish town I grew up in for hours. And, since this was before everyone had a cell phone (gasp!) my parents would have no idea where I was. I did have a watch and strict orders as to when to be home, which I usually followed, but I could go anywhere I wanted on that bicycle and no one could stop me.

My favorite place to visit was a bridge out in the country that went over the highway. I would stop there on that bridge and watch the cars speed by under it, knowing that one day, I was going to leave that little town and never come back. This was one of the things that got me through my childhood alive—that and being able to make music. 

When I lived in the city with my bicycle, my favorite time to ride it was at two o’clock in the morning on summer nights. I would ride home from my job as a grocery clerk, taking side streets and drinking in the warm air. There would usually be no one else around at all and it was wonderful to be alive, flying along on my bicycle in the dark. It’s the most freedom that I’ve ever felt.

I have a lot of responsibilities now and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m a long way from my bicycle at 2:00AM as I drive my mom-mobile to baseball practice and church. My bicycle sits in the garage and I don’t get much chance to ride it these days. Unfortunately we live on one of those streets where everybody drives too quickly and sight-lines aren’t good, and it’s hard to find time to myself even if that weren’t the case. But, my son likes to ride his bicycle around our driveway and in our yard, and I can tell that he feels just as free as I did. It makes me happy to watch him and to know that my bicycle is there in the garage, waiting for me. When I am ready, it will be ready too, and I suspect that this time I’ll have company when I ride.



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I felt similarly about my own bicycle when I was a kid. Sadly, now-a-days I don't get that blessed free feeling unless I'm on a plane somewhere. Traveling a lot has been wonderful in that it's taught me a lot, but on the downside, it makes being back in my home country feel terribly claustrophobic.

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