September 3, 2011

Biking Through The Fields

Filed under: Childhood,Memoir — by Nadia Clifford @ 10:47 am
Tags: , , , , ,

I had a long discussion today with my 9-year old son. He just got a new bike for his birthday and we were talking about the pleasures of riding a bike. I reminisced about my summers in rural Russia when my sister and I were children.

We spent hours each day on our bikes –  a gang of kids,  with scraped elbows and knees, covered in dust of the rural roads. Sometimes it was hard to tell if the dark brown color of our legs was tan or just dirt.  We would not really know until we came back to Moscow at the end of August and would finally take a hot bath. All summer long we zoomed along unpaved streets and through sunny wheat fields dotted with bright blue cornflowers.  Never have I experienced such an ecstatic sense of freedom since then. The wind in my face made my eyes water, and deafened my ears.

Wheat field with corn flowers

We’d drop our bikes at the edge of a field and venture into a pine forest, carefully stepping on old soft needles, warm resin fragrance tickling our nostrils. Old legends of Czar wolf hunts in the forest humbled our boisterous spirits. We foraged for tiny wild strawberries, so sweet and aromatic that the smell lingered on our fingers through the rest of the day.

Then we’d be on our way again, pedaling standing up to get the most speed out of our old bikes. We’d stop at a stream, its water was cold and clear. One or two boys would be brave enough to step into the freezing water.  Off we went again. As soon as it would start getting dark, and the cows would be walking home, we’d turn back. I was always too timid to bike when the cows were in the streets, intimidated by their big horns and massive bodies.

We’d roll our bikes inside the garage and padlock it, then we’d walk a couple of streets over and buy a three liter glass jug of fresh cow’s milk, still warm and smelling of fresh grass. I always liked the milk best the next day when a thick layer of cream would form on top and you could scoop it out with a spoon. I’d lick the spoon off with my eyes closed, it made the taste last a little longer.

And then I think of my son, with his safety helmet, snuggly buckled in his Mom’s mini-van, going to a paved bike path with stop signs on every street crossing. After the ride he is going to have his little box of low-fat pasteurized milk. At least he does not have to use an outhouse or wash himself with ice-cold well water, which only sounds romantic.


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