Monday, April 18, 2011

Biking Down Memory Lane

Each month I take one of the kids out on a 'date'.  Last Sunday was Riley's date.  And he chose a bike ride.

We started out riding the rails to trails bike path but ended up heading into Sterling.

As we rode into town, I realized how long it had been since I had biked through Sterling.  I had moved to the village when I was 8 and lived there until I was 16.  I spent most of my 'bike riding' years riding through the street and alleys of Sterling. 

Soon after crossing the tracks into town we went by Sterling Farm Equipment.  This place had once been a second home to me.  My dad had been the general manager for years and when we moved into town, from Rittman, we moved across the street from the store.

I often remember going over to be with my dad after the store closed.  My sisters and I would roller skate down the wide aisles or we would play hide and seek or leave ornery pranks for the employees the next day. 

I told Riley to follow me as we rode into the parking lot.  I wanted him to see where I played. I wanted him to ride where I had once rode.

The store hadn't aged.  There was still the Partsland, Ohio sign up by the front door.  There was still the 'step up sign'.  There were still the same hours posted by the door next to the phone number that was so very familiar. As if it had once been my own.  There were still the long red rugs lying just inside the front door.  There were still Cub Cadets on showcase inside the front windows. There was still the olive green siding.  There was still the slight incline at the end of the sidewalk next to the same red employees door.

 I felt 9 years old again.  I wanted to open the door and run in to dad's office and tell him I came to skate.  I wanted to smell the familiar smell of the dirt and oil and grease that was so comforting.  I wanted to run through the parts department and wave hello to all the familiar faces. To Fred. Dennis.Doug.Dean.SandyArt. I wanted to run down the back ramp and into the shop where we would soon turn around because it was so big and dark and scary.  I wanted to ~  I wanted to experience it all over again.  And this time treasure it and remember.

But I couldn't open the door.  I couldn't run inside.  It was Sunday and the store was closed.  And the things I wanted to see and the people I wanted to say 'hey' to weren't there. They were all in my memory and are held in my heart.

Riley and I rode on through the parking lot to the back.  He wasn't too sure about going there but I assured him I knew where I was going.  As we rode I saw sights I hadn't seen since the early 90's.  Not much had changed.  And I was glad.  

While we rode past this storage building in the back part of the property.  I had to laugh when I saw the opening to the door.  I knew that there would be a huge flight of stairs to the right as you walked through the opening.  I knew that there would be a locked door at the top of the stairs.  And I was right. Partially.

There was a door at the top of the stairs.  And it was locked.  And the stairs were to the right.  But they were not a huge flight of stairs.  There were three steps.  Funny how a childhood memory can become exaggerated.

There is only one other person who knows why these steps to this door is so memorable.  My sister and I would often ride bikes back through here.  Next to this particular building there was always a banging/clanging sound.  We made up the story that there was a witch who lived in this building and that is why the door had to be locked.  Now, neither of us believed in witches.  So I'm not exactly sure where we got the notion.  But we knew it had to be something scary that lived in there or why else would they keep it locked??

Well, sister.  I figured it out.  As I rode by the building as I was leaving the banging started again.  Just as a gust of wind blew through the old cracks of the walls.  So there goes our theory.  Unless she was banging a friendly 'hello'?

The loading ramp was often rode down to see how fast we could get going.  Riley started to ride his bike up the ramp to take a turn at flying down the steep ramp.  But part way up he decided he wasn't ready for it.  And was quite impressed that his mama used to do it.  "Really mom?  You really rode down it?"

I remember when a crew of Amish carpenters came and built the white building to the left.  We would sit in the parking lot for hours; watching as they framed, roofed and sided the huge building.  Before it was filled with equipment we rode through the smooth concrete and enjoyed the newness of it.  And feeling a part of the building process.

I vaguely remember the inside of this building.  I know it was not well lit.  And kinda scary.  I would sometimes go in with dad and check on things.  If I remember right, this is where the shop was for lawn equipment.  Some foggy pictures are floating through my mind:  I see a large room lit by only one bulb.  I see steps leading up.up.up to a large upstairs storage area.  I remember smiling faces.  Of employees who knew us Bauman girls.  Sterling Farm is a part of us.  And for a time we were a part of it. 

I have since had a few farmers tell me they remember the little blond girls who would be playing at the store.  How they would bounce in all smilies.  How sometimes there would be girls on skates going up one aisle and down the other. Then they always get a grin when I tell them that I was one of those little Bauman girls.  

After we left Sterling Farm, Riley and I headed down the alley.  I'm not sure if it actually has a name... we always called it 'the alley'.  We rode past the old Chidsey place where Mr. Chidsey and I would ride to the moon on his porch swing. We would talk about my day at school. We would talk trains. And books. And just stuff.  He was at least 70 years older than me.  But he was my friend. A confidant. A companion.  And I miss him.

There is a curve in the alley.  I remember riding around that curve as fast as I could.  Racing.  Someone.No one.  Just going fast.As fast as I could.  This time we took it slower.  I savored the sights.  Of the house where the lady with the dog lived.  The dog was a big fat dog that had itty bitty short legs.  For the life of me I can't remember the dogs name.  {Kelly... can you help me out??}

Riley and I rode on through Sterling.  Looping around to get back to Alyssa's house so I could return the borrowed bike.  As I neared the end of the street I realized I didn't know when I would ride my bike through Sterling again.  If ever.  With the move to Connecticut right around the next bend in my road, I realized this may be the last time. 

I wanted to forever remember what those bike rides felt like.  I wanted to forever know the smell of the warm air, the feel of the air flowing through me.  I wanted to remember what the tiny town looked like from the view of a 9 year old girl walking home from school. 

Our bike ride was soon over.  I hadn't intended for our ride to be memory evoking to me.  But I'm glad it was.  While we were riding and the memories came flooding back I spoke them aloud to Riley.  He saw my eyes light up with each recollection.  He saw me as a girl his own age.  He saw me as someone who has memories that are not his own.  And that was good. 


  1. Ah Julie, what a great gift you gave to Riley. Not only the gift of time, but the gift of memories that he will remember of his mother, being a little girl.

  2. What a great post Julie. The memories brought tears to my eyes (Ok. More than just a few tears!) I had to laugh when I read about that "scary" building where the witch lived. Everytime we drive through the back lot to look at equipment, I think about that witch. (And I was very surprised to read there are only 3 steps!! I remember a huge flight of steps, too!!) I also remember our cleaning days there and how I used to make you do all the dirty work while I washed dishes and cleaned up the employee kitchen.... sorry!! I do not remember the dogs name. Can't help you out there.
    So many good memories. It seems like it was just yesterday, but on the other hand it seems like a hundred years ago.

  3. this one made me smile. Many of us have similar memories. We're lucky that we do have them.

    Paul Z