The first home I remember growing up was a condo in Everett, WA. I was 2, almost 3 and had an imaginary friend. Fairly sure his name was Skip or Skippy. I have bits and pieces of memory attached to that location, stairway hide & seek, long walk to a lake or pond beach, a hot tub I wasn’t allowed in… Then I got a brother.
We moved to Lake Serene and grew up! oh yeah
Outside the kitchen slider was our yard. Beyond the grass line was actual woods, my woods. This place was a kid’s sanctuary, I had the ability to create forts, hidden passages, bicycle obstacle courses and occasional cousin doll wedding cathedrals when forced to.
The funny thing was… my brother and I were free to explore the woods, but the end of the long driveway was our boundary on the civilized world. Our home was off the street in a time when off street houses weren’t really a thing yet. Our house and our immediate neighbors were breaking the molds at the time. The result was that we had a driveway that was a whole property length long to ride along before hitting pavement.
Limits are meant to be tested, so when on the bikes, we liked to test the restrictions. It started by asking to ride down to the pony farm. I think this place actually charged people to ride ponies around the 1 acre farm in the community but I can’t be sure, I only bought red ropes and Jolly Ranchers there. Despite our pleas, Beau and I were not allowed to ride sans parents to the candy depot. Instead we hung out at the edge of the boundary plotting escape scenarios.
We began wearing down the soil around the base of the tree that separated our driveway from the neighbors. Exposed Douglas fir roots become excellent novice BMX jumps. Taking turns, me at 8, Beau at 5, we critiqued the finer points of a good jump opposed to a fantastic one. After months of continuous research we figured out that the most important factor to greatness was incredible speed. Starting at the house in front of our house would get you 15 – 20 good pedals in and your speed would come in just right to clear the Forget-Me-Nots we got Mom at the nursery for Mother’s Day.
Beau was always competitive. Partly because he had an older brother, mostly because his older brother always said “of course you can do it. What? Do you need me to show you???” My blind faith in him that sunny April day led him to start at the back corner of our front neighbor’s house, pedal the entire property line, and hit the tree root at terminal velocity. Beau’s proud face was radiant, I was beyond proud of my management abilities and motivational speaking. Neither one of us saw the patrol car coming.
About the same time Beau’s tires hit asphalt, the cop’s Hanes were shot, my celebration dance turned into a sprint away from the scene, and instead of the victory parade he deserved, Beau was ordered to pull over to the side of the road. From the bushes two doors down I saw my little brother scared out of his mind, take a harsh warning from an officer just as scared as him.
He walked the bike back up the driveway, not really holding back his emotions, and I couldn’t blame him. “Hey, how about we forget jumps and head out to the tree fort?”