Homecoming

For what indeed is home?  Whether it’s blood relations, a circle of friends or a class full of kids, home is the experience of loving and being loved.  Such was my day.

I got home from B.C. at midnight and proceeded to sleep for ten hours.  I woke up knowing that Jayne, the Grade 5/6 teacher with whom I volunteer, had invited me to the class’ potluck lunch and the school play day all afternoon.

A tiny part of me wanted to hide out, safe under the covers, but I love those kids, so tiny did not defeat huge.  My car Scarlet and I drove to the school.  As I pulled into the driveway, three or four kids were bouncing up and down and waving.  Oh my.  I’ve had horror stories in my head about the kids being distant because I didn’t complete my ride across Canada.  What a silly head I sometimes have.  When I think deeper, I see that children “see” me.  They know my heart is pure.  And usually their hearts respond in kind.

I went in the front door of the school to sign in.  There was some kerfuffle in the hall but I blocked it out.  As I walked out of the office, the whole class surrounded me, smiling and yelling something.  Jayne rushed forward to hug me.  I was being held.  I tried holding the tears back but I was deeply touched by their love.  I felt electricity smash through me and it all seemed headed to my right hand.  It started shaking and appeared to have no interest in stopping.

Back to the Grade 5/6 portable for the communal eats.  My head was reeling, thoughts were jumbled, and I even struggled to get the meatballs on my plate.  I was invited to sit with a group of girls and happily obliged.  My eyes moistened again and again.  I stuttered.  I knew I was surrounded by love but the fear of my bicycle days had not disappeared.  The hand continued to shake.  One girl reached out and put her hand over mine, trying to still the unruly beast.  What a sweet thing to do.  When she lifted her hand, mine went vibrating again.  Later another girl did the same, with the same results.  I guess my body has things to do.  There must be a natural rhythm that can’t be rushed.

There was a sign on the board welcoming me home.  Little hearts adorned some of the names.  Some kids came up to say they were proud of me.  I walked around stunned, feeling disoriented, embarrassed at the result I’d produced, sad at the loss of a dream, and scared still about nearby semitrailers whizzing past.

After eating was done, I was going to take something to the office for Jayne but she asked me to stay in the portable.  We had a fine talk.  She’s such a marvelous support for me, and I hope I am for her.  After a bit, she held out a red “Canada” t-shirt and asked me to put it on.  “Jayne, did you buy me this shirt?”  She smiled, and I’d guess the answer was “Yes”.

The dear teacher then led me out of the portable.  I glanced towards the back corner of the school and saw a Grade 5 girl and some young kids standing there.  They seemed to be saying something.  As I got closer, I made out “Mr. Kerr!  Mr. Kerr!”  Sure seemed to be a loud chant for a few kids.  As I rounded the corner, spread before me in a long line were all 230 children and all the staff members.  The first group held up a sign with the flag of British Columbia.  Then it was Alberta … Saskatchewan …  “My God!” I thought.  “I’m crossing Canada.”  Oh … I was being held in the arms of love.  I have failed as a cyclist able to cross my country and I have succeeded as a human being.

A teacher gave me a bullhorn and I told them all that I loved them, and I do.  I haven’t talked to every one but I know their hearts.  Those vital organs were on full display along the length of the school.

Blessings show up unbidden
We see each other
All is well

Falling Short and Standing Tall

Part A

Today was the morning that I was going to change the flat tire on my bike.  I cleared some space in the garage and started getting nervous.  “You can Google it, Bruce.”  Except I didn’t want to.  I had vague memories about how to do the deed.  Years ago, I’d even done it successfully, but maybe not on the more difficult rear wheel.

I turned ta-pocketa upside down.  Check.  I moved the gear shifter so that the chain was on the smallest sprocket.  (See!  I can remember things.)  I squeezed the gear shift lever and pressed the little button, moving the brake pads away from the rear wheel.  I put on gloves, to cope with the chain grease.  Oh, what a good boy am I!  And then …

I loosened the bolt (?) that holds the wheel on the bike.  I grabbed the chain and yanked this way and that, lifting the little gears to various elevations.  (That’s what I’m supposed to do, isn’t it?)  Nothing.  Just a bunch of black goop on orange gloves.  I stared at the contraption … and couldn’t remember what to do.  I’d done well so far but my mind created a dead end.  “See what a bad cyclist you are?  Good luck on crossing the country.  You can’t even get out of your driveway.”  (Good grief.  Will someone please tell that voice to shut up?)

Trusting that no neighbours were training binoculars on me, I jerked the wheel some more.  The chain teeth became a series of devilish smiles, and the goop continueth.  And then finally, the darn thing came apart.  What exactly did I do to create that result?  I don’t know but at least now I had the wheel on my lap.

Okay … grab the tire levers so you can pry the tire away from the rim, exposing the damaged inner tube, which you can then skillfully pluck out of its prison.  I pried.  The lever flew through the air, with the tire still firmly in place.  I repried and the lever reflew.

I gouged.  I grunted.  And approximately ten minutes later the tire lever was zipping off the tire like a knife through butter.  Was I approaching the world’s slow record for changing a flat?  No, there had to be other all-thumbsers on the roads of the world.

So the offending inner tube now lay on the grass.  From a place deeply dark in my biking soul, I remembered that good cyclists pump a little air into the new tube, to make it easier to push under the tire and against the rim.  Open little nozzle on the inner tube valve.  Pick the right hole on my bicycle pump for said nozzle.  Pump.  I said “Pump!”  Nothing.  No air entereth the tube.  Remove pump head from tube.  Try again … and again … and once more.  Pick up old and useless inner tube.  Pump.  Air enters.  So what am I doing wrong?!  I have no idea.  Back to the new tube.  Pump.  Nyet.  Head down between my legs.  Buddhist insights about how all of this isn’t important?  Nowhere to be seen.

Rest for five minutes.  Try again.  Air enters tube.  Can’t figure out why now and why not then.  Oh well.

I get the new inner tube pushed under the tire and use a lever to reseat the tire on the rim, being careful not to pinch the inner tube.  Gosh, what a pro!  And it worked.  Soon I was pumping happily until the tire reached 110 psi.

Then it was at least twenty minutes of greasy fiddling to get the wheel reattached to the bike.  (Please, no cyclists are allowed to read this part.)  And then … Ta da!  My bike was ready to fly.

I danced inside to put on my quirky blue jersey, heart rate monitor, sexy spandex shorts, groovy red socks, headband, helmet, yellow cycling gloves and shoes with metal pieces on the bottom (for attaching to the pedals).  Glowing with success, I returned to the garage, looking like the epitome of Joe Fitness, not to mention Joe Mechanic.  I squeezed the front tire lovingly … hard as a rock.  Then the back … … flat!  I stared once again.

So repeat the whole darn thing, with a new inner tube.  I probably cut my time in half, but I was low in the soul.

Part B

In the end, I had done it.  The tire remained hard.  I flew slowly over the landscape and returned to my home 75 minutes later breathing hard.  Just like my tire still was.  Perhaps I am a good boy after all.