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Posts Tagged ‘Ansley Mendenhall’

“My Parents’ House,” Essay by Ansley Mendenhall

In Arts & Letters, Creative Writing, Essays, Writing on August 21, 2019 at 6:45 am

Ansley Mendenhall Reynolds

Ansley Mendenhall Reynolds is a middle school teacher at a private school in Roswell, Georgia.  

I had not seen these American Girl dolls in quite some time, but here I was gently tucking them into the trunk of my car.  They blended into a sea of nineties childhood toys that I had been saving for my own children to play with one day.  I suppose I inherited this quality from my father—the inability to throw out anything that once mattered to me.  I carefully closed the trunk not wanting to disturb my priceless possessions.

“All set!” I turned and announced to my parents, who had been watching from the front porch.  I could see their eyes welling up with tears, and I knew it would be hard for them to watch me drive away for the last time.  Fearful that the lump that lodged itself in my throat could turn into tears, I hung my head and stared down at the driveway.  The concrete had more cracks in it than I had remembered.

Suddenly I was a four-year-old girl again, standing on the driveway staring at my hot pink bicycle. Metallic streamers dangled from each handle bar.  It was beautiful, but I couldn’t be proud of it because it had two dinky-looking training wheels attached to the back.  To me, those wheels were a sign of weakness.  They were holding me back from experiencing true freedom.

I was only four, but I knew that I would have better success asking the neighbor to remove my training wheels than I would have by asking my own father.  I needed those wheels off, and I needed it now.  I trudged across the grass and knocked on the door.  A balding man in business clothes answered the door.  “Will you take the training wheels off my bike?”  I asked him.

I must have surprised him.  “Suuure,” he answered as if asking a question to himself.   I gave a big gap-toothed grin and, in that moment, something convinced him that he was the man for the job.  “I’ll need to get my tools from the basement, so bring your bike down to the basement door.”

Wide eyed, I watched in wonderment as he carefully removed each part of the training wheel.  I felt like an inmate who had just been released from prison.  Finally I was set free, and I was ready to prove to everyone what I was capable of.

I headed back to my driveway for the inaugural bike ride.  I shouted into the house, “Mom! Dad! Come watch me!”

They chuckled in amusement when they saw the bike.  “Where did your training wheels go, Ansley?” my mom asked.

“The neighbor took them off,” I said.  Then I gripped the handlebars tightly and saddled the bike.  One by one, each foot met its pedal.  I pushed each leg with all my might.  You can do this, I thought to myself.  The next thing I knew, the streamers were shimmering and swaying in the wind as I glided across the fresh, pale concrete.  I felt a rush of freedom.

“Look at our little girl—only four years old and already riding a bike without training wheels,” my mom bragged.

“Way to go, Pumpkin!” dad exclaimed.  Whether he was talking about me riding my bike or about me getting the neighbor to remove the training wheels, I wasn’t sure.  They clapped their hands; their applause echoed in my ear.  I relished in that feeling of praise. My determination had paid off.

I zipped and zoomed around that driveway for twenty-six years; it is no wonder the concrete had so many cracks in it now.

I hopped onto the leather seat of my car and reached my arms up to adjust the rear-view mirror.  I caught a glimpse of the sweetest baby blue eyes—those of my one-year-old son—staring at me from the back seat, where he sat strapped into his car seat. I turned around for a better view.  “Say bye bye to grandma and grandpa’s house,” I instructed this miniature version of myself.

“Bye bye,” he replied.  Hearing those words made my eyes fill with tears.  Be strong, I thought to myself.  It’s not the house that makes the family; it’s the family that makes the house.

I pulled out of the driveway, a 30-year-old woman with American Girl dolls in tow, passing the realtor’s sign stamped “SOLD.”

 

 

 

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