There is a time in your life when you become you. It happens when you remember back as far back as you can, and voila, there’s a memory, a real one, not a memory conjured up by looking at a photograph, but a real memory, a “this is what I remember doing when I was three” type memory.
Because you can’t exist until you know you exist, and you can’t know you exist until you remember existing. This, of course, is your real birthday, not the fake day with cakes and candles and disappointment, but the earliest day that you remember being. That’s the real day you were born.
Turner was born on a bicycle, on Pops’s big black Hercules with the white grips and the Sturmey-Archer three-speed gear shifter and the hand brakes and most of all the handlebar seat, yes, the handlebar seat, an invention so dangerous as is scarcely to be believed in this day and age of product liability and helmets and helicopter parents who fear jungle gyms, yes, that’s where he was born and it was terrifying and dangerous because it didn’t even have a safety belt it was just a seat with two holes for the legs to dangle and Pops’s warning “Don’t let your feet get caught in the spokes!” and two little steel handles that Turner would grip onto with the deathgrip as Pops would stand up on the pedals and the already gigantic bike propelled by a giant would sway from side to crazy side and accelerate and the giant that Pops was would make big, heavy breathing noises and the bike would go faster and faster until it was going so fast that it stopped swaying from side to side and Pops would now be sucking in huge rhythmic breaths in synch with the thrusting of his giant legs and Turner would hunker down in that little steel seat and grip the handles and his heart would be in his mouth and the wind would be pressing tears from his eyes and somehow he knew that this was all a very bad idea but the safety of Pops overwhelmed everything because Pops was a giant and knew what he was doing and there was a red light and the Hercules would groan under the brakes and slow and stop and Pops would put a foot down and the bike would tilt a bit so that Turner thought they would tump over but they never did and then the light would turn green and off they’d careen again in frightened freedom.
Now Turner looked at his new bicycle and its amputated training wheels and grimly realized that he would have to ride it, not because he wanted to, but because Cason was gaily scooting over the dirt and hollering out, “Chickensissy, chickensissy!” and, much as he didn’t want to admit it, it sure did look fun.
Pops righted the bike and gave Turner a push. He coasted helplessly. “Pedal, Turner!” Pops shouted.
Turner closed his eyes and fell over on his side. It hurt and he cried.
“Chickensissy dummy!” cackled Cason as he rode in circles around his brother.
“Can it, Cason,” Pops said, and lifted up the rider and the bike. “You have to pedal, Turner,” he said, and gave the crying boy another hard push, which ended in another hard fall and more crying.
After half an hour Pops gave up. Once he’d gone in, Cason rode up. “You’re never gonna learn to ride it until you’re a hundred. You’ll be a old man training wheels grandpa chickensissy! Grandpa chickensissy! Grandpa chickensissy!”
Cason had never been happier, and maybe, you know, he never would be.