Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In Memory of My Motorbike

Just before my senior year in high school, my father decided to move to a house across town. I refused to attend the closer high school. I’d changed schools too often as my father took different jobs. I wasn’t going to change schools again, if it was possible for me to get to my old one. Besides the other school was “my school’s rival.” Or to put it another way, their vice principal was the man who had suspended me for 3 days because I attended an anti-war rally, and I never wanted to see him again.

My father’s new home was too far for me to bike to school. My father helped me pick out a car. I was going to have my very own car at age 16. Yes, I’d have to pay him back with every penny of my summer job paychecks, but I was going to have a car. And I thought my father knew what he was doing.

The used car that he and his dealer picked out for me was a Taunus. A German ford. My grandfather yelled, “You should buy American!” I didn’t care. A car was a car. All I cared about was whether it would go when I turned it on.

The Taunus started out needing minor things, like adjustments to the latch that kept the door closed. Then it needed a stocking stuffed in the channel where the gear change stick moved. Then it needed grommets that had to be imported from Germany because they were metric sizes. Then it needed alternator and carburetor and it continued to need every penny I earned at my after school job.

I talked to the people at the Yamaha motorbike shop. If I could sell the Taunus for about 2/3 of what I paid for it, I could buy a brand new 50 CC motorbike. The kind with automatic oil and gas mixing. And they assured me it would go and it would be cheap to feed and it would not eat my entire paycheck.

But of course I needed more than a motorbike. I needed a helmet, and bungee cords and a rack so I could carry my books and groceries. And I was in debt again. A finite debt.

I loved that motorbike. I use the slang word “pook” to mean take a quick trip in a good mood. I named the bike “Morpook.”

I loved the wind on my body. The sense of connectedness to the world as I zoomed around unprotected by metal walls. I could smell roses and lilacs as well as exhaust and fertilizer. A motorbike was my kind of transportation.

Morpook took me to my senior year at high school. Morpook took me through college.

When I met my future husband, he wanted to ride Morpook. Casually, I asked him, “Do you know how to ride a bicycle?” He didn’t. He has bad eyesight and nobody noticed until he was in school and by then, he didn’t want to learn to ride a bike. He wanted to read.

But I would not let him ride Morpook until he learned to ride a bicycle. He rode Morpook to his college graduation, wearing his cap and gown.

Morpook always went when I kicked her starter. Morpook never needed hard-to-find parts. Morpook did not put me in debt. Morpook moved with us when we moved to Berkeley.
Morpook moved with us to Colorado.
I wrote an article about Morpook for the college paper, praising her for faithful service.

Then I was riding home and I came across something I’d never seen before. A pile of sand in the roadway. Naively, I rode ride into it, expecting to go up and over. Morpook stopped. I didn’t. I still have the scar on my hip where my skin was sanded off.

Oh, for the days when a traffic accident only meant scrapes and bruises!

By this time we were parents. I felt that selling Morpook was the responsible thing to do. We needed to transport our children on something safer than Morpook. We needed those metal walls.

We bought a station wagon. This had to be a joke. Me, the radical independent who had a baby born at home. I was now driving a station wagon?

The woman who bought Morpook had read my article in the student paper. She knew she was getting a worthy steed.

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