On Bike Repair

DSC_0288There is something to be said for fiddling, for taking apart and reassembling without a manual, for hunching in the garage floor with your bicycle’s wheels, and chain, and brakes laid out like a patient’s guts in a poorly lit surgery theatre. There is something to be said for repairing.

My grandfather was a physician, a fixer of the highest order. He operated on stomachs and hearts, limbs and intestines, because in his day, specialists were rare, and general practitioners were operating-room fixtures. He built things at home, too. His basement workshop was heaped with tools on an ugly, practical worktable. I loved that room. I loved that table. But Poppa could work anywhere. He was as happy to concoct solutions in the kitchen as in a friend’s stable. He and his neighbor, an electrician by trade, rewired lamps and broken toys in equal measure, out back, in the driveway.

Until she lost her eyesight, my grandmother sewed. With her sleek, black Singer, Mummum hemmed the corduroy pants I refused to wear and outlined new bodies for the disintegrating wooden doll I wouldn’t surrender. The machine was strictly off limits, since my semi-uncle sewed right through his finger while playing with it in childhood; but I wasn’t drawn to its forbidden nature any more than I was attracted to Poppa’s closed basement door.

I wanted to be with the tools and machines when my grandparents were using them. I wanted to watch and help. I wanted to work as they did, with little regard for printed instructions and manufacturers’ commands.

My mother and I once drywalled two rooms with fifteen minutes’ instruction and half a sheet of roughly jotted notes that we lost an hour into the first bucket of plaster-mud. The result was far from perfect. But it wasn’t shoddy. It remains affixed to her brick walls, as solid as when we hung it, over twenty years ago now.

I still tinker with everything, computers, relationships, manuscripts, and houses, tweaking and perfecting, editing until I learn exactly what it is I’m doing. Sometimes, I work alone. But I’d rather capture an equally curious partner, someone willing to disassemble and bounce ideas around, someone who will make a hash of the whole thing with me entirely to put it back together again, on the off chance that the end product will be better than the initial design.

So the best projects of all are the ones I do with Scott, when we share grease under the nails and half-blistered calluses on the fingertips, when we work so long the children and the sun alike give up on us, when the messy floor is nothing to our euphoria. I love to go to bed, an exhausted pair of Frankensteins, and wake with the certain knowledge that we have created something, that even if that thing falls apart as dawn breaches the horizon, it will never cease to exist, because we made it together, shaped it in tandem, stood side by side, saying to each other, “It’s alive! The balance is perfect; it steers like a dream; it can stop on a dime.”

Handsome bikes. All done

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


On Bike Repair — 2 Comments

  1. Lately, I refused to throw away a pen that fell to the floor in the social security office and hasn’t worked properly since. I liked that cheap little pen and it was almost new, but I can’t seem to fix it. I just don’t have the knack. That or I left an important piece of it on the linoleum under the counter. I’m better at fixing broken stories.

    I just finished a continuation of Some Like it Hot for a contest. (The prompt was to continue a love story from a book, tv show, or movie with a thousand words.) My daughter told me what was wrong, and I fixed it so well she made me read it to her twice. Yay me. 🙂 I’ve got my fingers crossed.

    • Pens are the worst. And it’s so hard to find one with exactly the right heft and friction that I cling to them well past their salvageable date. I feel for you and your social security office pen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the writing contest, too!