There was nothing more glorious than getting a brand new Big Wheel.
And nothing as inglorious as our mothers’ mandates that we not ride in the street with the neighbourhood kids – that we were confined to the dreaded and boring backyard. But it’s not like we didn’t have a plan . . .
If you’re unacquainted with the ‘Freedom to Ride in the Street’ plan, its basic tenets follow: First, we did figure eights around the patio furniture, as noisily as we could.
Then, we moved out a couple of chairs from inside the house and figure-eighted those, bumping into them every third or fourth circle.
We made obstacle courses with potted plants, we ran over as many snails as we could and then swore we didn’t see them.
We skimmed over our parents’ feet “accidentally” when they came outside to screech about not damaging the prized geranium, and when they started preaching about how snails were living creatures too. Yeah, right.
We trained the dog to run behind us during our obstacle course regimens and bark all the way. We loaded up the bucket seat with our stuffed animals.
It was then about time to start knocking chairs and potted plants over, telling mum after one of our best-feigned crashes that all things considered, the open road would probably be much safer. And worn out, she finally agreed.
Now we were free to ride out on the street, to be a part of the street pack! Hallelujah! Big Wheeldom’s heavenly gates had opened!
The Big Wheel was a sit-down, low-to-the-ground three-wheel vehicle for kids – like a tricycle, but lower and nearly metal-less, and decorated with a much better colour scheme.
The seat back was adjustable so that as a rider grew, he wouldn’t grow out of the Big Wheel. The two wheels at the rear were small, but in front was the so-called Big one.
There were pedals and handlebars that you could decorate with ribbons or flying plastic.
Most memorable of all, the Big Wheel made that distinctive scraping noise on the cement or asphalt (if you were riding on the street, that is – if you had, in other words, worked the steps of the ‘Freedom to Ride’ plan and worked them well). Moulded plastic was never this good.
Dare other members of the pack to go straight down a hill for a harrowing stretch – turning or using the brakes forfeits the dare.
Or give your body a jolting it won’t soon forget and pound down a length of cement stairs – but in this stunt, it’s the fallers-off who lose the dare.
Play “chicken” (the first one to change course is the clucker) with fellow members of the pack, stage races and double passenger races, tow each other, push each other off for added launching speed and perfect your 180-degree skid-outs