March 18, 2023
The shiny red beach bike, a 2013 Christmas gift. After six months of homeless, hotel hopping, we were accepted into a women’s DV Shelter. The pastor of a small church we were attending, paired my kids and me with another family for “Adopt a Family Christmas”. I wished for a beach bike with a basket for many years, imagining myself riding everywhere, along the beach to be closer to God.
There was no beach, but I rode up and down the hill at the shelter, up in the Sylmar mountains. With a sense of freedom, I loved the wind against me. Staying below us, a tween boy helped me put all the pieces together from a huge box. After we left the shelter, I never rode the bike again. The chains were loose so the pedals were unstable. Life was so overwhelming that I didn’t have the capacity in me to fix it.
Two years later, renting a room in a two-bedroom apartment, the bike stayed on the patio. My ex (an aggressive alcoholic) showed up at the apartment angry, still wired and drunk from the night before. I can’t remember why she went out onto the patio, threw my bike over the balcony, and without missing a beat, threw my daughter’s bike on top of it. Now my bike had loose pedals and crooked handle bars.
Because I’m a sentimental collector of life’s material memories, I imagined that one day I’d fix it. It’s been nearly ten years, the pitiful red bike hangs in the furthest corner of my garage. It’s followed me through seven moves (that I remember), possibly more.
Is it time to let this go? It doesn’t bring happy memories. Even the week that I enjoyed riding around the shelter, feeling free, is clouded by the dark events that followed: the way the Program Director, Carlos, looked my body up and down every day, saying, Damn, you look good today. The way we got kicked out of the shelter even after I appealed their decision–all because I let my kids go to Disneyland for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with their Grandpa, Aunt, and cousins during the last week of school. (Their teachers gave the okay, confirming that schoolwork was done for the year). We had been living a nightmare for two years, non-stop. As mother to my children (4 and 8 at the time), I made the informed decision that they deserved and needed to have fun at Disneyland. They needed time away from the trauma to just be kids.