Friday, May 22, 2009

Bold* Girls On Bikes

* "Bold," as used in 1958, in that place and that time, did not mean "brave" but rather "naughty" or "troublesome."

Walking recently along the Shannon banks, enjoying the sparkle of sunshine on the water, my mind slipped back to 1958. The summer I was ten.

Mary Grant had led me astray----again.

Against all parental taboos about riding our bikes through town and across the river to a certain forbidden swimming hole,

we were trundling said bikes down these steps:

Then jumping on again and peddling like the wind along this narrow riverbank path

so as to have as much swimming time as possible before going home for our tea.

"They'll never know!" she had said, tossing her silky mane.

"Come on 'fraidy cat!! Don't be such a baby!"

I was the timid one, the goody-goody. Mary Grant was bold and brave and a year and a half older than me. She was also blessed with a big brother. I felt that having a big brother gave one advantages, made one more courageous, more daring. I thought it a terrible oversight on God's part not to have given me one.

For my part, if my parents said I was not allowed to go somewhere, it didn't occur to me to argue or disobey. I just didn't go. Mary Grant, on the other hand, saw rules as parents' attempts to keep us from enjoying life to the fullest. Her thirst for adventure far outweighed her fear of consequences. The day was lovely. The sun was shining. The river was calling. If I didn't manage to summon a little courage, there were plenty of others who'd be delighted to join Mary Grant and leave me at home, sucking my thumb, wishing I had some guts.

So off we went.

We had a delightful time, jumping and splashing about. We didn't drown, though I was not much of a swimmer, while Mary Grant swam like a fish. We were not attacked by marauding bands of hooligan boys. And we negotiated our bikes expertly through the busy part of town. But time is always on the wing when you're having fun, and it was soon time to gather ourselves up and start peddling homeward in time for tea.

After parting company with Mary Grant, I let myself quietly into our garage and put my bike away, then summoned my courage for the unavoidable dash through the kitchen, hoping the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose picture hung on the kitchen wall, would show some mercy, and not let my mother's eagle eyes detect the towel-and-swimsuit shaped bulge under my shirt. Everyone was already seated at the table, and my mother was serving up the food.

Not being an experienced strategist, my plan was to simply hurry through, doubled over, mumbling about a desperate need to "go!" Then fly upstairs and shove the evidence under my bed. It didn't occur to me that when I had left the house several hours earlier, ostensibly to go play with Mary Grant, I'd looked like a skinny string bean. Now, barely three hours later, I looked like Billy Bunter.....

I almost made it. But the Sacred Heart let me down.

"Where have you been all afternoon?" mum asked sharply, her eyes sweeping over me, taking in every detail.

"Just out playing," I mumbled, trying unsuccessfully not to turn beet red.

Moving out of the way of a man on a bike, wobbling towards me on the narrow path along the river bank, brought me back to the present. The gleeful thrill of forbidden fruit, the joyous shouts, the splashing and the laughter from that far-off day faded away, and I was once again enveloped in the quiet sights and sounds of a sunny May day on the river. The water slapped gently in the rushes;

birds sang in the trees;

buttercups the size of saucers poked their sunny faces out of the ditch;

a pair of ducks led their tremulous ducklings out from the shelter of the bank;

a domestic dispute broke out between a couple of swans;

an airplane droned overhead.

I turned contentedly towards Rise's house. I was glad I'd broken the rules that day. Living safely can get awfully boring. Sometimes you have to fly in the face of well meaning authority, stretch your wings, take a leap and a splash into unknown waters.....and damn the consequences.


Wendy said...

I applaud your bravery Molly Bawn, and adore your writting.
Thank you.

Little Miss Moi said...

dear molly. Even though our experiences are seperated by a generation or two, I think our childhood boldness* is pretty much the same!

Thimbleanna said...

Hmmm...does this mean we are getting ourselves into a bit of trouble in the present day??? I hope you and Rise have had a fantastic time!

Julie's journey said...

I think that is what childhood is about. Pushing the boundaries, trying not to get hurt or caught and then adulthood, setting the boundaries and catching your children out - a sort of sport for parents I guess.
So glad you are posting again, have missed you.

Ali Honey said...

Ah, those were the days!
I did worse than that, but not telling.
The greeness compares to NZ.
So glad you are safely back my lovely, we missed you but knew you were on essential business....any photos?
Baby stories would be okay by me!

Pam said...

Ah, we reticents need someone to shout "C'mon!", then we can keep up with the best of them! Voted head prefect by the school I went to, I declined (much to the horror of the staff), as I wanted to hang around with the naughty kids, not reign them in. Much more adventurous. Married a bad boy, and 25 years on have had fun.I didn't have to sneak past the sacred heart of Jesus, just the sewing teacher who noticed my enormous bust which was heading homewards sheltering sewing for my mother to finish.This has been a fun post - bought back funny memories for me.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It was so well told and I felt privileged to have this insight to your youthful years. And the message to all of us is also clear, "Go for the Gusto!" This is one of my favorite post and I seldom say that.

Warty Mammal said...

Oh, wow. Back to your old stomping grounds. How long had it been?

Such a sinful creature you are, sneaking out for swimming instead of, say, meeting boys or sneaking booze!

meggie said...

What a lovely memory to share! How green it all looks, & so beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Those photos are just gorgeous, and the writing most bautiful. Thanks so much, nice to see you again, I've missed you!

Micki said...

I hope that you are as bold as you were when you were a child. I am definitely a bold girl, or so my Irish husband says.

Stomper Girl said...

It sounds so romantic to go back and visit the scene of your adventure. I wonder if people still swim there. And were you punished for your day of fun?

Anne Marie said...

Great story Molly!!! I love the term "Bold" and I use it as often as I can with my own little darlings. So, did the bold girl get punished for her mischief??

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Sometimes there is nothing quite as delicious as forbidden fruit, unless it's your wonderful photos for our delectation.

Where is bold Mary Grant now, do you think?

persiflage said...

Welcome back. Great photos.
The nuns at my old school, when wanting to disparage us would say 'You are a silly, soppy, sentimental sort'. Somehow we found it funny rather than demeaning. It is funny to look back on the sort of behaviour that was forbidden.

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

That is absolutely fantastic, Molly.

You portrayed that so very well that I felt as though I could have been there with you, as a girl, daring fate and jumping of the cliffs of chance.

Good girl.

Isn't it such sad sweetness to wander through the echoes of memories and the footsteps of childhood like that?

I've done that, too. Matter of fact, I did things very similar to your escapade.... sisters of the wind, we are, I believe.


Thank you so much for sharing these sweet memories.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

riseoutofme said...

Time for the bold girl on a bike to get off said bike and start thinking about doing nawthing ... Inspirational, that word ... NAWTHING ... Go for it Molly!

manysisters said...

Lovely memory and Great Pix!! Are you back? Let's pick vegetables!

and wasn't that water cold?!

Samantha said...

Hi Molly

Sorry to have taken so long to visit you I have been busily setting up a "books only" blog - I hope it re-ignites my blogging mojo!

As to The Secret Scripture, I would say "read it" whole heartedly. I loved it. I loved the story, the writing and I didn't even mind the ending - though some don't like it at all. I can forgive Sebastian Barry anything it seems!

My new blog home is at