Treasured images of one family's bicycling history

A mental picture of a son and granddaughter riding is more treasured than any photo.

Courtesy of Jayne I. Hanlin
Trike ride: Alfred Frager, the writer's father, poses on a tricycle in September 1929.

As a child, I remember Mom showing me the family album of black-and-white photos. All of them had a white border, and most had scalloped edges.

She had affixed each snapshot with four moistened triangular white photo-mounting corners and then had used white ink to label and date the photos on the black pages.

With today's digital photography, I can now store photos on a CD, my iPod, or cellphone, and even a memory card in my camera. Every 10 seconds, favorite snapshots randomly appear on my computer screen saver.

Nevertheless, I shall always especially cherish two of those old photos in Mom's album.

One is of my dad standing on both feet but seated on a small tricycle that he is holding up as if he were riding it. He is 20 and wearing a dark pinstriped suit and vest, a white dress shirt, and a light-colored tie. On his feet are laced dress shoes, on his head a straw hat, and on his face a silly grin.

The other photo is of me when I was less than 3 years old, sitting on a large tricycle. I am wearing striped seersucker pants and a long-sleeved jacket buttoned down the front. On my feet are white laced shoes and on my head is a frilly bonnet tied under my chin. I am smiling.

"These treasured photos prove that your biking expertise comes from my tricycling side of the family," I teasingly tell my younger son.

He has been on the saddle of a bike – of one kind or another – ever since he was 4 years old.

Now married and with two children, he still rides his bike. Often he competes in bicycle races, including the criterium, in which a group of bikers race around a course of about one mile. The race lasts for 75 minutes, plus the time it takes the riders to travel five additional laps. Near the end of the race, if there is an opening, riders sprint to the finish line.

Recently, my son won the state championship race, coming out of nowhere on the last lap, drafting off the main field of cyclists (or peloton), zooming by the three riders 100 yards ahead of him, and crossing the finish line first.

Because I live 900 miles away, I was not at the race with my camera. But my 9-year-old granddaughter told me that when her daddy came up to her after his cool-down lap, she climbed on his back, and the two of them rode away.

In my imagination, I can picture them both:

He is wearing his short-sleeved royal-blue and red Lycra racing suit zipped up the front. On his feet are special shoes that clip into the bike pedals, and on his head is a black helmet strapped under his chin. My granddaughter is wearing bluejeans and a white hooded sweat shirt trimmed with a red heart and a colorful rainbow. On her feet are hot-pink crocs, but her blond ponytail is uncovered. In my image, both my son and granddaughter are smiling as they ride on his silver bicycle.

And this mental picture gives me even greater pleasure than any photo I might have clicked of this duo after the race I missed in Colorado. I don't need to look at a glossy photograph or turn on a digital device to see this couple riding on a bicycle built for one. I shall store their image forever. Penned in my heart is the label: unfettered joy.

[Editor's note: The original version included an inaccurate photo caption.]

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