From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul IV

Bike Ride

A sister is one who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.


One of my teachers once asked my class what our favorite memory was. I vaguely remember that we were studying self-esteem, and as a discussion prompt, my teacher asked for the moment in which “you felt the best, you felt that you had the world in the palm of your hand.” Some described prestigious awards; others described winning a tournament. My answer, however, invited giggles and hesitant smiles. Why? Because I felt the best when I first learned how to ride my bike—at thirteen. I didn’t mind my classmate’s stares and snickering, because I knew there was more to the story.

My sister and I shared a typical sisterly relationship: we couldn’t stand each other. Or, to be honest, she couldn’t stand me. I hero-worshipped her. Her taste was the epitome of glamour, her personality the definition of cool. My clothes were mysteriously inclined to look like hers, and even my words tended to mimic those I heard from home. Many times, I even wanted to literally follow my sister, whimpering every time I was barred from attending movies with her. Needless to say, I was a brat and an annoyance to her. Any sort of conversation we had usually degraded to fighting, and try as I might, my sister had an extra six years worth of insulting vocabulary (which meant she usually won). After a while, I stopped trying to impress her and learned to be totally indifferent; perhaps the silent treatment would get more approval. I was wrong. We soon fell into a sad pattern—I avoided her, she ignored me, and deep inside, it hurt. So that’s how it was between us. Indifferent or hostile, she was only a sister in name. I truly believed that we would forever be apart, two housemates without conversation, two strangers without warmth. And nothing more.

I still remember the day I learned to ride a bike. I had received the bike that Christmas, which was great, until I realized I had no idea how to ride it. My mom had long since abandoned any attempt to teach me; I had proved to be a panicky, frustrating student. I took it upon myself to learn, a little bit each day, but to no avail; I couldn’t ride my bike, and on that fateful day, it was no different. I was coming to the end of my daily one-hour torture, and I was so frustrated that I threw my bike aside and began to cry. I guess that was what caused my sister to come outside. At first I was skeptical and tense, as I thought she would begin to tease me or at least burst out laughing. She did neither. I hunched my shoulders forward and turned my face away, but she gently picked my bike up and motioned me over. That was the beginning. She fearlessly held my hand while the tears dried on my cheeks; she steadily held my bike when my feet faltered. She never once let me fall. And for three hours—three wonderful, blissful hours—we learned to ride my bike. No shouting. No fighting. No arguing.

That day I learned that my sister was human—how else could she have been my teacher? I’ve seen those TV shows with doting siblings, and I’ve always longed for that perfect harmony. That was the day, however, I had a taste of what real sisterly intimacy could be like. She saw through my weakness; I saw her compassion. I got off my bike that day empowered, and instead of blind admiration, I now had a newfound respect for my sister and for myself. She was both humbled and exalted before my eyes. My sister walked away quietly that day while I showed off my new skills for my mom, and I did not see her the rest of the day. Perhaps she felt something, too.

The day I learned to ride my bike proved to be my bridge from a snotty, naive little brat to a wiser younger sister. It was a life-changing experience, not a miracle. We still occasionally have our random spats and bitter rivalries, but since that day, it’s been easier to get along because we have an unspoken respect for each other. The day she taught me how to ride my bike, she ceased to be a bully and became my sister.

And nothing more.

Esther Young

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