a new life

  • Aug 26, 2010

It was a major purchase for newlyweds, but we justified it as a second car since I’d be staying home with baby Benjamin. In those days, I was a semi-serious cyclist racing hillclimbs and centuries with a team and wearing a logo-strewn jersey. With clipless pedals, curved racing handle bars, a slim seat and the graceful frame painted in glorious Italian Celeste Green it was a thing of beauty. From the time Ben was six weeks old I bundled him up in the bike trailer for trips to the grocery store, the park, Brackman’s Bagels.

Once I pulled the trailer fifty miles around Bear Lake and in an adventure that makes me wonder -“What were we thinking?”- Erik and I rode from Salt Lake to Midway with poor little Ben cooped up in the trailer.

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With Ben after my first marathon. Love the socks.

In a few years, Stefan joined Ben in the trailer where they laughed and tussled and sometimes scratched each other, but after Hans was born we got conventional, bought a car and started eating meat again.

Still, I rode my gorgeous green Bianchi, made friends and drank in the glory of Utah’s steep canyons. But in the last few years my aging body and the heavy steel frame (as opposed to today’s carbon fiber lightweights) made it difficult to keep up with my cycling buddies. “You need a new bike.” was their constant refrain.

I resisted, it still worked and the expense of a new bike seemed silly for such an occasional cyclist. Besides, Ben had fallen in love with it and often rode it up the canyon near our home. But last fall when I took it in for a tune-up, the mechanic shook his head, “You might get a few more miles out of it, but it not worth the parts it would take to repair it anymore.”

It lay fallow in the garage during the winter, until I stumbled across an idea this spring: an acquaintance had taken an old racing bike and turned it into a commuter– flat handle bars, 7 speeds, basic pedals, a nice wide seat– maybe, my bike too could begin a new life.

Two weeks ago I took it to my favorite bike shop where they were kind enough to admire my vintage wheels and for about $150 transformed her into the perfect bike for a college student.

It was finished just in time for Ben’s move to BYU on Wednesday.

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outside Heritage Halls

I didn’t expect to tear up as the hall resident discussed visiting hours and fire safety (it was embarrassing sniffling and wiping my eyes while he demonstrated how to use an extinguisher), but I did a pretty good job of acting normal when I met his roommates.

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Ben’s college closet, fully loaded.

Ben was happy and cheerful, yet solicitous of my feelings as we ate lunch and shopped for groceries. Late afternoon, when the refrigerator was filled I saw that look in his eye– a mirror of the expression I gave my mother twenty-two years ago in an identical apartment– “It’s time for you to go mom; I’m ready to face this adventure on my own.”

I sat on his dorm bed and knew he would spend more nights there than he ever would again in our home. Before I completely broke down I hugged him goodbye and fled the building. As we drove north I felt my heart ripping as I left a bit in Provo. It reminded me of Elizabeth Stone’s words– β€œMaking the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

Home today, I’ve been busy with neglected tasks but moving slowly as though wounded. I’m laughing at how much I’m crying. Part of my heart is elsewhere now; it’s the end of my era with all my little ones at home. As the birthright of an oldest child Ben has always pushed me into new vistas. I mourn the change, yet pray for bright adventures in this new life for all of us.

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sleeping in the bike trailer, 1992.
August 25, 2010
August 31, 2010

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23 Comments

  1. Reply

    Erica

    August 27, 2010

    you are such an amazing writer. i choked down thick, heavy lumps in my throat while reading this. my little owen is about to turn two – but time goes so fast

  2. Reply

    Kerri

    August 27, 2010

    Ummm…I’ve been holding it together today very well, thank you, until this. Oh my. Oh my. That’s all I have to say.

  3. Reply

    Crystal Critchfield

    August 27, 2010

    Just beautiful Michelle. You are an amazing mother and an inspiration. It seems like just yesterday that we were living next door to each other in Heritage Halls. I can’t believe your oldest is now in college. Wow!

  4. Reply

    Ken

    August 27, 2010

    I teared up thinking how quickly time has passed. Ben has given us so many wonderful memories!
    I love Ben too!

  5. Reply

    andrea

    August 27, 2010

    That picture of him sleeping in the bike trailer got me…how the years fly by. My hats off to you. What a good job you have done.

  6. Reply

    Tasha

    August 27, 2010

    Oh, college. I think I cried more than my mom did when she dropped me off. She simply embraced me and said, “You can’t grow at home anymore. You need to be here.” I reflect on those words whenever things get hard, and I know she was right.

    PS – I’m amazed that you could make those 50’s cinder block rooms look beautiful in your photos, but I guess I should have known.

  7. Reply

    emily

    August 27, 2010

    i don’t even know him and i miss him already! good luck! it gets easier – so i’m told … and when you get the chance take a drive to provo for a visit! i’m sure the missing goes both directions!

  8. Reply

    Annie

    August 27, 2010

    perfectly expressed, my friend.
    xo

  9. Reply

    Linn

    August 27, 2010

    Good grief, you would think it was my own little Ben you wrote about (still sixteen more years for that one), I cried so much over this post. There is something about the end of August that makes me teary in general, but after this post, full blown tears. Love you friend.

  10. Reply

    Anne Marie

    August 27, 2010

    Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  11. Reply

    Christie

    August 27, 2010

    Beautiful, mama. I’ve thought about you this week. Hugs xox.

  12. Reply

    Tracy

    August 27, 2010

    I can only imagine the emotions for you this week with everything. I am sending you a huge hug. This post was amazing, Michelle. Your writing is poetry and deep and ..well, wow. I am sobbing reading this.

    That bike is glorious. He will be the envy with his vintage wheels under him. What a gift it is…you are..
    xoxo,t

  13. Reply

    Kevin

    August 27, 2010

    Wow I can’t believe I am all Teary eyed sitting in the Rhodes wellness gym right now. So beautiful, michelle I loved every minute of that post. Made me think of my own little Ryn and how hard we prayed to get her here, how hard everyone prayed to bring her here to us. How I still will hold her ever growing 4yr old body in my arms like it was just yesterday and try to slow father time down, ” please don’t let her grow too fast, I don’t want to lose her.” but then I think of Ben and what an amazing young man he is! How he is growing up and moving on but that he still is so caring and thoughtful and genuine. What a remarkable job you and Erik have done with that little baby boy that raced around in that trailer with you so many years ago! When I think of Ben it reassures me that they can grow up and still be our sweet angels! Good luck Ben! And great job mom and dad lehnardt for sharing your perfect boy with everyone now!

  14. Reply

    ashli

    August 27, 2010

    Okay, that just was plain rude! you go and make everyone cry!

    what a amazing tribute to you and Ben. I love this post! You seem to make it seem like it’s full circle and all will be well!

    Hang in there! Luckily, you will always be his mommy!

  15. Reply

    Mama

    August 27, 2010

    OMG, Michelle. The picture of sleeping baby Ben took my breath away! Thanks, now I am crying too! I am following your journey and stepping in your shadows…

    (P.S. — Tell Ben that one of his mission goals here in OTown could definitely include cleaning my fridges! It would be an Act of God. For sure!)

  16. Reply

    Claudia

    August 27, 2010

    Loved the picture of you, the bike, Benny boy, his closet! How is it possible that you (and me) have to do this five more times! How does one prepare for moments like these?

  17. Reply

    michelle

    August 28, 2010

    I thought of you as I walked on campus today, and even kept half an eye out for Ben.

    There’s such taste-able bittersweetness in your words. I love it and don’t all at once.

  18. Reply

    Sue

    August 28, 2010

    Cool bike!

    Warm feelings.

    (I liked both.)

    =)

  19. Reply

    martha corinna

    August 29, 2010

    So lovely, all of it.

    And look at your legs! Those are spectacular!

  20. Reply

    Carrigan Clan

    August 30, 2010

    Oh Michelle! Such a bitter-sweet day. I have to do this next year and I’m already dreading it.

    I love the saying…”If you love something…let It go. If it comes back to you…it’s yours forever”

    BUT isn’t it awesome to already know that no matter what…he IS yours forever?!

    Besides…he will have laundry to do in a week. πŸ™‚

  21. Reply

    Rachelle

    August 31, 2010

    This was too sad for me to read since I went through it last fall with our firstborn son. Change is Hard!

  22. Reply

    Rachelle

    August 31, 2010

    P.S. What an amazing idea, the bike.

  23. Reply

    Jan Russell

    September 3, 2010

    Well what do you know, ten seconds ago I was laughing at the dolls and now I am bawling my eyes out at your real life doll baby all grown up. This blog! Blast this blog and how it always, always makes me cry.

    Excuse me while I go remind my own boys that they are under no circumstances allowed to grow up and leave me.

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