Let me share an event that is now a poignant and powerful remembering -- of a silencing hurt that I did to myself. I did not know it then. You see, I was so very young.
Years and years ago, I rode my bike to and from my parochial grade school. It was a three-mile run through the pine-covered streets and palm splotched acres of a not yet big city that was Miami in the 1960s. Most days I loved this ride -- especially the ride in the afternoon when my classes were done. I enjoyed the freedom of it, with the wind in my face and the movement of my body on a bike propelling me home.
Sometimes in sheer joy, I would sing. I would let my voice rise with my heart and sing out loud as I rode -- oblivious to the cars going by or anything else, but my love of life and my wonder in the moment.
Every Wednesday, I had my piano lesson at 4 p.m. with Mrs. McInerny. She looked just like a piano teacher should. She was tall and raw-boned with an intelligent face framed by wisps of hair that refused to stay put in the tidy French twist that controlled the back of her very efficient head.
One particular Wednesday, as I was positioning the straight-backed chair -- the one that usually sat in the front hall corner near the cuckoo clock -- next to the piano bench so she could oversee my hands at work, she smiled brightly at me and said:
"Robin, I passed you riding home on Red Road yesterday and I saw you singing. You looked so happy and free, it was wonderful to watch you."
My world came to a standstill. I felt invaded. I felt small and spied upon. I felt like my secret world had been exposed to be viewed by a world of outsiders. People had seen me singing. Others had witnessed what I so innocently had thought was a private moment of me alone in time.
I put my hands to the keyboard and played the piece I had practiced all week. My teacher and I went through the lesson as usual. But my world had forever changed. A piece of me went into hiding. A door had closed shut. I stopped singing on my bike.
Just recently -- 48 years later -- I bought myself a brand new bike. It has all the cool stuff any 10-year-old would love. It even has a rearview mirror and an odometer. And you know what? I sing on this bike. I let my voice rise in wonder and love. My heart cries from my throat with joy and laughter, with awe and gratitude. I let it rip and roar as I pedal and explore this city that I call home. And I embrace and I love that 10-year-old me that was embarrassed -- and then silenced -- by her own joy.