Moms on bikes: A love story

I grew up in the Traverse Heights neighborhood, literally across the street from the school. I could walk through the park to my classrooms every day. The teachers knew where I lived, they all had good relationships with my parents, I was allowed to walk home for lunch. My mother would be waiting with a sandwich or mac n’cheese ready for my sister and me.

We would talk about how the day was going. She would let us know grandma would pick us up after school and take us to her house for the afternoon. We would play card games for the evening and walk to the civic center to run around.

My grandmother would make dinner and mom would come over after work and we’d all share the meal before leaving. Mom and her parents would talk about the work day, grandma would talk about how she had helped us with our homework and grandpa would joke with us.

I look back at my childhood and I tend to think that I grew up in a bit of a matriarch. My mother was one of six siblings, five sisters, and one brother. They had an incredibly strong mother, she was somewhat stoic before the word became as popular as it is today. Always a rock.

My mother is also of that strong character. Always early to work, always willing to help her children, she goes above and beyond what is asked of her. I have certainly brought to light how my dad has influenced my life on two wheels. But I have yet to speak about how my mother played a role.

My mother was so involved in the Traverse Heights school system. She was the secretary of the PTA program, a driving force for organizing fundraisers to earn money for a new playground and a paved track around the school. Some have told me that she was a major reason Traverse Heights never closed, though there were talks of it.

Something that sticks out in my head is how she and the mothers of my friends got together and organized a bicycle night. It wasn’t a big gathering, maybe three or four families with kids of the same age. We all met at our house, a good central location, and we just rode around with no true destination. They taught us about riding in the streets, hugging the curb when cars would pass, spending less time on the sidewalks and even signaling with our hands.

The parents laughed at the goofy things kids say, the kids, of course, thinking they were not being goofy at all. There was no meal planned, there were no drinks to be had aside from the water we carried. It was just pure and simple fun, a good laugh, conversing with friends, getting lost in the string of moments that was our ride.

We didn’t ride particularly fast but we weren’t particularly slow either. We waved at the neighbors, maybe even saying hello as we passed and best of all if the neighbors drove by in cars they went slow and even greeted us as they passed.

I think about how ‘spur of the moment’ my adult life has become. People have told me I’m mercurial and just sort of floating through life. One moment to the next. Riding my bicycle in no serious direction. And thinking back on this particular memory I attribute my breeze swept outlook on life to my mother’s ability to plan things, she organized that ride through the neighborhood but to me, it felt like a ride on a whim.

So many events of my life have been planned and yet felt so spur of the moment, beach days, birthday dinners, breakfast gatherings, family reunions the list goes on. All thanks to my mother being that rock. That organized individual that gets the job done.

Next time you think about those mercurial childhood rides, think back really hard to see if maybe your mom actually organized it. And the next time you decide to go on a spur of the moment bike ride, be sure to thank her for making every planned event feel as though it was on a whim, giving you that desire to just go where the breeze may push you.

So to that end, let us get out there and ride hard, ride fast and ride safe – all year long!





Shea O’Brien is a Traverse City native, Civic Center neighborhood resident, Traverse Heights Elementary alum, Clubhouse member, Marketing Specialist at Superior Physical Therapy, lifter of weights, Traverse City Advocate Academy participant, and proud book worm. Follow his adventures at @shea.m.obrien.