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Falling Off My Bike

My mother, who was sitting in a chair behind the table, began to pace the room. I'd never seen her act so strange. "Are you all right?" the doctor said.

I was twelve the summer my family vacationed in Warren, VT and crashed my bike. My dad and I rented bikes from in nearby Greensboro and set out for an hour-long ride on a perfectly paved black road, while my mother and younger brother, then eight, stayed home. There was a problem with the brakes on my bike—they were sticking a lot and causing the bike to wobble violently every time I used them. I got on a steep downhill and was afraid to touch the brakes for fear that the bike would topple from the wobbling and the speed. From behind me my father yelled, "Touch the brakes!" but I ignored him and flew over my bike, ripping my chin open on the asphalt.

I heard his bike clatter to the ground and he came running up to me. I knew it was bad when tore off the bottom of his shirt and tied it around my head to stop the bleeding. We knocked on the door of a nearby house and the woman drove us to the clinic, the Greensboro Health Center, where I was stitched up by a nice Jewish doctor with a trim beard. My mother met us there and came in the examining room with me while my father took care of my brother in the waiting room. The doctor gave me Novocaine and explained something about how he was trimming the cut so he could stitch it better. My mother, who was sitting in a chair behind the table, began to pace the room. I'd never seen her act so strange. "Are you all right?" the doctor said.

"I don't think so. I feel nauseous."

"Let me give you some Dramamine." He left me on the table with my chin hanging open, opened a cabinet, and gave her some pills and a cup of water. She took it, and he watched her carefully. He told her to put her head between her legs and take deep breaths. Afterward I asked her what made her sick. I didn't understand. She said she didn't like to see me in pain. I said I wasn't in pain because I had Novocaine; she said it didn't matter, it seemed like I was.

That was the moment I realized that to be a mother was to worry. My mom had never been demonstrative or histrionic, and still isn't too this day. She had always been a cool cucumber, mellow and controlled, and able to laugh through most stressful situations. But after that I saw that you could love someone so much it hurt. It made me afraid to be a mother but also deepened my love for her. My welfare was linked to hers.

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