When I was younger, I had a red mountain bike. All my friends had BMX bikes, since they were the coolest. If you pulled up on the handlebars hard enough, you could get the bike to lift off the gravel road. My mountain bike had gears, which my friends found unimpressive and tease-worthy. The gears hardly impressed me. I knew they had value, but it was ignored, overshadowed by my inability to bunnyhop, and the loud clanking noise my derailleur made whenever I changed gears.
I distinctly remember standing near the elementary school, straddling my bike as I talked with my friends. I thought I wonder why I can’t switch gears without pedalling? It felt like I had come up with a genius idea. It would be so convenient to be able to switch between gears at will, while you’re standing still, hanging out. It would be one less thing to worry about while riding. I imagined an automatic bicycle: quiet, intelligent, able to set itself into the perfect gear at all times, so I could concentrate on pedalling like hell. I didn’t know how bikes worked. I never sat down, flipped the bike over into diagnose mode, and thought mechanically about what was happening. I have had about 15 years of bike experience since then. I know more about bikes now. I change gears without thinking.
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At my Grandpa’s funeral, a short biography was read. It mentioned that it was hard to feed nine kids, so the family reared animals and grew potatoes and other vegetables for nourishment. Back then, the concept of food was different than it is for me now. I imagine they ate meat and potatoes and maybe a mushy vegetable for every meal. My grandma, the only cook, probably ignorant of spices other than salt and pepper, was tasked with keeping everyone fed. The point of food was to stay alive. Good tasting treats were hard to come by. I imagine the family going to a fancy Christmas dinner or something similar, once or twice a year, and having a meal that would have been incredibly delicious and special. I am privileged in this regard. Every one of my meals is basically a Christmas feast. I can go out and pay someone else $8 to cook me a heaping plate of rice, chicken, and vegetables, covered with a sweet garlic sauce. I can be as picky as I like, and easily stay alive.
These days, Grandma has a nice little kitchen that is clean and well-stocked. She lives alone, and cooks for one unless there are guests. It’s mostly the same things: chicken or pork, potatoes or another starch, and a vegetable, usually mushy, added to the meal as if to pacify God and give stability to the food pyramid. If she still cooks the same food as before, I wonder if it’s like me and my bike gears. She probably wished there was another way, a way to eat like Christmas everyday. Now it’s Christmas eternal, but I don’t think she feels that way. Maybe dreaming of an ideal state is what keeps us going; the anticipation of a world where things are easier.
Now everything is easy, yet it’s so hard to remember that this used to be our dream.