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The Terror of Picking out a Helmet

Updated on August 4, 2022
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LA is a creative writer from the greater Boston area of Massachusetts.

When you were a child, did you wear a helmet while bicycling?

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Too Small Yet Too Big

I learned to ride my bike before helmets became gear that no bicyclist child (or adult for that matter) should travel without. Peddling as fast as I could, I would feel the wind through my hair and the dust in my eyes. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve my first “big kid” bike.

When it became apparent (either my oldest brother or a teacher friend of my mother mentioned my need to wear a helmet one too many times) that my helmet free rides were numbered, it was a sad day. I remember my mother took me to a local chain toy store and told me I could pick out any helmet I wanted. At first, this was exciting. I could pick out any helmet that I wanted. It wasn’t up to my grandmother. It wasn’t up to my mom. It was all on me. However, after trying on nearly all of the young adult helmets they carried and a couple of the adult ones, it didn’t look like any bike rides were in my future. My head was too big for the kid helmets, but too small for the adult ones. In order for me to ride my bike, I needed to wear a helmet. What was I going to do?

I remember my mother proceeded to try all of the helmets on me again. (My mother is as very determined woman. She rarely leaves a store without getting what she wants.) Perhaps I hadn’t put the helmet on correctly. She would figure out where things went wrong. With each helmet, my head began to throb more. (A frustrated woman, mother or not, is rarely gentle.) Out of joint desperation, we decided on this polka dotted thing. I was never so happy to see a checkout line.

The first time I wore that helmet I fell off my bike. Beyond being too small for me, it also dipped in front when you went over bumps or sweat too much. Blinded by my helmet, I crashed into the sidewalk and flew onto the grass. As neither my mother nor my grandmother saw this happen, I could just get up and get back on my bike. Seeing my helmet as a menace, I took it off and put it in my bike basket. For the rest of the afternoon, I rode helmet less and didn’t fall once. Before I rode into my driveway, I had the sense to put my helmet back on. I didn’t want my mother to yell at me for riding without it. Worst yet, I didn’t want to make my mom feel bad for buying me a bad helmet.

When I outgrew my “big kid” bike, I stopped bike riding altogether. To replace my old bike, my aunt bought me an adult bike with hand breaks. Out of fear, I never rode it. You see when I was little, my mother was trying to teach my brothers how to adapt from their kid bikes to adult bikes. Touching the handbrakes too hard, my mother flew off of the bike and ended up needing stitches in her mouth. To this day, she still complains about the pain from the stitches. Being that I always saw my mother as a role model, why would I get onto a bike like the one she was letting grow moss in the basement? I missed riding my bike, but when you can’t fit on your old bike and your new bike could send you to the hospital, what are you to do?

Not too long ago, my mother mentioned that she’d like to start riding her bike again. My ears perked up and somewhere in hell a snow cone was being made. All of the memories I had riding my bike came back to me. I saw myself as a little girl, riding her bike so fast into the driveway that it shaved years off of my middle brother’s life. I could hear the sound that the tires made when I would brake and leave smoking skid marks. And then it hit me. I would have to buy a helmet. Suddenly, my excitement turned to terror.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2009 L A Walsh


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