Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
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Motorcycle Mama

“I saw your mom today.” Natalie spears another forkful of lettuce and edges it into her mouth.
“Oh yeah?” I slurp the last of my chocolate milkshake extra thick then clutch my forehead.
“Brain freeze? Natalie asks around her straw, calmly sipping her soda as I writhe in pain in the middle of McDonalds.
“Ouch! Yeah. So you saw my mom huh? Was she-" I pause, unable to bring myself to complete the sentence.
“Yep.” Natalie spares me finishing.
“Shit! Who was with you?”
“Craig, Mike and--” she stops abruptly.
“And…” I urge her to finish.
“And Matt.” She confirms my unfinished question. “Shit! They know she’s my Mom?”
“I didn’t tell them. Missy was with us. She pointed her out. Well, they were already checking her out, said she was hot. Missy just mentioned it was your Mom.”
“Awww man..”

Mom had taken to hot-rodding around town on her brand new bullet bike. Mom on a bullet bike. Just the word mom coupled with the term bullet bike set most folks lips to twitching with repressed laughter. Mom’s bullet bike of choice? A sassy turquoise and purple number called a Ninja with an engine louder than a chainsaw next to your bed at seven in the morning after a night of drunken revelry.

I don’t know what prompted Mom's interest in motorcycles. The whole concept of cruising down a road in the face of public scrutiny conflicts with her basic nature. She hates when people look at her. Does not like attention. She barely walks around her neighborhood and refused a gym membership for the better part of two decades for this very reason.

The motorcycle was a particularly interesting coming out choice for Mom as we lived in a patriarchal society that encouraged women to be pregnant during all child bearing years, cook dinner and clean house. Barefoot and pregnant isn’t just a funny saying in Utah, it’s a way of life.

But a motorcycle? Couldn’t she take up something more mom appropriate? Scrapbooking perhaps? Pasting family pictures to paper and stamping cutesy sayings was currently all the rage among savvy Utah homemakers. Or she could paint pottery at the local Color me mine! My friend’s Moms were always coming home with quaint new ceramic mugs painted in sweetheart colors of sunset hues. Even jogging would have been a Monica approved way for her to get some fresh air. But a bullet bike? Isn’t that for beefy muscle boys that highlight spiked hair and go in for regular tanning salon sessions?

I can trace her motorcycle love affair to my tenth year. I was passing the warm summer day engaged in a pleasant hopscotch competition with my best friend Jenny Valentine. We skipped and hopped across the chalked up driveway keeping tally of who won each game with bright pink chalk markings. Fights would ensue, insults hurled, tears shed then we’d start all over again.

We were ending our thirtieth fight and starting our twentieth game when a distant drone buzzed into my conscious like a pesky mosquito. The roar intensified, drawing neighbor children from various games of hide & seek, football, skateboarding, sticker trading and Popsicle slurping. About a dozen of us lined the street, faces turned toward the dull roar emanating from the end of our street.

And then. There she was in all her motorcycle mama glory, leaning into the turn like a speed racer. Seeing us all staring, eyes wide, mouths agape, she revved the throttle in an extremely uncharacteristic nod at showmanship.

To my abject horror parents began peering from behind curtains, between blind slats and through shadowy screen doors, drawn by the ruckus transforming our normally quiet street into Thunder Dome.

Mom, her newly frosted hair a wild cloud around her head, roared to a stop on our driveway, the front tire of her motorcycle rolling to stillness atop my previously peaceful game of hopscotch.
“What do you think?” She hopped from the bike and flipped the thick, metal kickstand down with a surprisingly experienced nudge of her snow white Keds.

The person was familiar. She looked like my mom, but this edgy woman straddling a motorcycle was totally out of context. The expression on her face startled me. Eyes like sparklers, cheeks flushed pink, her face was alive. And she was grinning. Grinning! Grinning? My Mom didn’t grin. Smiled maybe, I’d even seen her laugh. But grin?
“Cool man. Where did you get it?” My friend Jenny’s big brother asked, awe coloring his question royal purple.
“Yeah cool. What kind of motorcycle is it?” His brother Ryan chimed through cherry Popsicle stained lips.
“It’s called an Enduro.” Mom began stroking the seat in an alarmingly loving manner. “I just bought it from the bike shop on State Street.”

Who was this bike riding, seat stroking wild woman and what had she done with my mom? I looked toward my big brother Brandon for support but he was already crouched down inspecting the motorcycle’s silver metal guts. No help there.
“Who wants a ride?” Mom asked. Good lord no!
“Me! Me! Over here!” Sticky, dirty hands shot up faster than a junkie at a heroin convention. Kids were actually jumping up and down in excitement and crowding closer to the bike.

Hmm.. They didn’t seem to be arming themselves with jokes about my biker chick mom. They genuinely appeared intrigued. Maybe Mom on a motorcycle wasn’t going to be that bad. And it wasn’t really. In the beginning.

I would be passing a quiet hour in the backyard reading about those entrepreneurial babysitters from The Babysitters Club when I would hear it. Its’ distinctive drone could be heard chainsawing away on State Street. Like thunder during a rainstorm, the rumble would reverberate toward me in swells. The sound growing steadily louder, like someone slowly cranking up the volume on a stereo until finally, it was buzzing down the side road and roaring into chaotic crescendo when she turned on our street. “Damn.” I’d cringe as she screamed into the driveway. Nobody else’s Mom had a motorcycle. Hell, nobody else’s DAD had a motorcycle.

Just when I finally began to adjust to the Enduro, a relatively small dirt bike, Mom whipped home on the Ninja bullet bike. The Ninja defied it’s stealthy namesake and was louder than a drunk hooker under arrest.

The arrival of the sleek Ninja coincided with my first year of high school. High school is a minefield of potentially explosive embarrassment. Acne, girl drama, boy trauma, it’s a precarious time in everyone’s life. Early in my sophomore year I developed a crush on Josh Roberts, a junior on the varsity football team.

Most of my waking hours were spent plotting ways in which I could “accidentally” run into Josh. I’d made friends with the boy he shared a locker with, mapped his class schedule like a private detective and scouted out his lunchtime haunts. I was routinely late for class after taking the circuitous route that would lead me by whatever classroom he happened to be in at that hour.

I had spent the past week loitering at the stadium watching football practice with a group of giggling girls.
“Oh my gosh. He is like, soooo cute!”
“Who do you think is hotter, Josh or David?”
“Dave is totally disgusting. He burps all the time and Lindsay in my history class told me that her boyfriend says David picks his zits in the locker room.”
We conversed in this vapidly engrossing fashion this until the afternoon I managed to wrangle a ride home from Josh.

Josh and I were stopped at a red light on State Street when I heard that familiar buzz. Despite the chilly air, bullets of sweat drag raced down my back and my hands became clammy.
“I love this song!” I shouted frantically, turning up the stereo in an effort to drown out the bullet bike speeding to a stop in the lane next to me.

Unfortunately the radio was on AM from a football game Josh had listened to the night before. I’d turned up some classical extravaganza. A violin solo transformed the cab of the truck into the elevator at my doctor’s office.
“You like classical music?” Josh asked in surprise.
“Uh yeah. Very soothing.” I mumbled and peered out the corner of my eye. There she was. Mom straddling her bike, sans helmet, blonde hair blasted into a stiff tumbleweed around her head.
“Monica!” She shouted and waved at me, two dozen silver bracelets encircling her wrist winking in the afternoon sunlight. And the gloves, oh god the gloves. The biker gloves with the fingers cut out.

I slumped lower in my seat and half-heartedly wiggled my fingers in response. Blessedly, the light changed.
“I’ll see you at home!” Mom mouthed and erupted into the intersection like an Olympian runner from the starting block. A blonde bombshell racing into the distance.

“Your sister rides a bullet bike?” Josh asked incredulously.
I debated answering yes. Growing up with my family I’d learned to lie better than Ted Bundy on trial. For me, as with him, it was a matter of life and death.
“Were you listening to my Metallica cassette tape?” Brandon would ask.
“No way! You think I have a death wish?” Of course I was listening!
“Who ate the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal I hid under my bed?” Mom asked.
“Not me. I ate at Lisa’s house. Ask Shaun, he was home all afternoon.” I’d scamper to the bathroom to brush the evidence from my breath.

I had a suspicion I could outwit any lie detector test administered, so I contemplated an elaborate ruse to explain the blonde on the bullet bike. But what if I managed to get a second date from the football god with gigantic blue eyes? Keeping up the subterfuge would prove exhausting.
“It’s my Mom.” I muttered.
“Your mom! Dude, she’s hot.”
“Yeah, I guess.” I muttered, uncertain of the appropriate response. Should I be pleased over the fact he thought my Mom was hot? I am frequently told we look alike so it was sort of a hand me down compliment.
“She rides a bullet bike? Is it your dad’s?”
“No. They’re divorced. He lives in Colorado. It’s hers.” My look said end of subject better than my lips ever could have. And it was the end of the mama drama for a while. Until the boys I dated became more interested in Mom’s motorcycle than me.

“Hey, let’s go check out your Mom’s bike”
“We should probably finish our homework first.” It wasn’t the homework. That was just the bait to get the new love of my life, Cody, over to the house so I could show off my carefully crafted ‘wet look’. The one Seventeen magazine said was sure to "Make Him Go Ga-ga!

I used a squirt bottle to spray my unruly hair until it was plastered around my head, dripping anything but sexy rivulets into my eyes. Then I spent an hour practicing ‘sexy’ hair flips in the mirror.

I’d start with my back to the mirror then turn quickly, lips puckered into a startled yet sultry (I thought at the time) “Oh!” Like a Seventeen magazine model, I thought.

The thought process behind the wet look? He’s used to my boring School Hair. This was my big chance to display my casual-at-home-sexy-look. I’d ransacked Mom’s closet for an extra large tee that I practiced letting fall “accidentally” off my coyly posed shoulder. I was on fire! When the broken doorbell groaned, I was ready.

Not wanting to appear eager, I waited the appropriate minute before pounding down the staircase and breathlessly whipping open the door.

I moved out of Cody’s shadow and stood directly in the sun’s path, hoping the late afternoon rays would pick up the blue in my eyes. I tossed my wet mane for that tussled supermodel effect.
“Hey Cody.” I said as casually as my excitment would allow.
“Why you wearing pajamas?”
“It’s a tee-shirt.”
Strike one.

“What’s with the wet hair? Were you showering or something?”
Damn! Hadn’t planned on explaining the wet hair, I’d only practiced the whipping it about part. It was suppose to leave him speechless with desire.
“Oh. I was just hot. I sprayed it to cool off.”
“It’s February.”
“I mean the furnace! It was turned up really high and stuff.”
Strike two.

With only one strike before the umpire shrieked 'you're out!',I moved onto the safe territory of homework.
“Well, guess we better study.”

I was just squeezing closer, our shoulders nearly touching as we worked algebra problems when he threw his pencil down.
“Let’s go check out your mom’s bullet bike.”
“Strike three, I’m out.”
“What did you say?”
“Did I say that out loud? Nothing. Was still working out that last math problem.”

He was in the garage circling the bike when mom pulled into the driveway, Camaro speakers blaring Whitesnake.
“Hear I go again on my oowwwn. Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever knooown.”
“Hey Mom.”
“Hey Elaine! So what kind of bike is this?” Cody asked.
Mom, always happy to talk shop happily answered. “Ninja 600.”
“How fast does it go?” He wanted to know.
“On an open road I can get her up to a hundred-twenty miles per hour.” Mom proudly replied.
Oh god. Did she just call the bike a HER?
“Mostly I stick to the speed limit though.” She noticed me for the first time. “Monica! Why is your hair wet? You’re dripping all over what looks suspiciously like my shirt!”
Damn. Foiled again. I said goodbye to Cody and followed Mom into the house, this time to really work on my homework.

“Mom. Why do you have to ride that stupid bike? It’s totally embarrassing.”
“What are you talking about? It’s awesome.” Mom was clattering around the kitchen and to my chagrin, gathering ingredients for Ghoulash.

Ghoulash is comprised of noodles, tomato sauce and anything languishing in the cupboard or refrigerator before the next round of shopping.
“Nobody says awesome anymore Mom. Not Ghoulash!”
“You’ll eat it and you’ll like it! And I don’t give a goddamn who says what. I say awesome!” Mom shouted, her rear sticking out of the fridge as she foraged for ingredients. In her hands I glimpsed the grease coated Tupperware containing last nights’ meat loaf and blanched.

“Seriously Mom. Your bike is like, so loud. Aren’t you embarrassed?" I whined as only a teenage girl with a bad attitude can.
Mom ignored me and began vigorously chopping vegetables on the scarred countertop. As children we never knew what a cutting board was until we moved out and got our own apartments. I remember shopping with my college roommate, shocked at the selection of cutlery and kitchen appliances.
“You mean, there is a device you cut things on AND one big block of wood that holds all the knives?”
The scarred, slashed counters in our kitchen were the cutting board. The junk drawer was the knife/nail/scissor/tape/screwdriver holder. I often used scissors to cut myself a slice of cheese.

“Mom. It’s just…” I shuffled my foot on the cheap kitchen floor tile, tracing dirt patterns with my toe. Sniffles from my Mom, whose back was to me as she sliced and diced, interrupted my search for the appropriate wording.
“Mom. Are you CRYING?” I asked in horror. Maybe I’d really hurt her feelings. I edged toward the kitchen door, prepared to flee if that were the case. Nothing worse in my family than having to deal with actual emotions.
“Hell no. It’s these goddamn onions! Now get my shirt off and call your brothers for dinner!”

Eventually the buzz of the bike and the blonde who rode it became as normal a neighborhood sight as the Hadlocks leaving for church in their van loaded with their twelve children. I even became proud of my Mom and her adventuring nature. I pitied the friends whose overweight, boring Moms drove minivans to get that gallon sized refill of Diet Coke to go with their burger, super-sized fry and side of Paxil or Valium.

Recently I asked my mom what became of that first motorcycle she rode home.
“The Enduro?” She pauses, reflecting, a gleam in her cornflower blue eyes. “That old thing? I loved that bike. I had to sell it to pay for Christmas that year. Highway robbery, what that man paid me for it. But it was worth every penny. That was the year Santa Claus brought you that ten speed you wanted so much.”

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Reader Comments (21)

Son of a bitch I miss those days. You know what's funny? I never thought twice about Mama's bike habit because I had my own Mama to deal with. Do you remember the story about when Brandon and I walked into my backyard and caught Sue squating down taking a piss in the garden? Then she told us to do the same and Brandon offered to hunker down and pinch a loaf as fertilizer. Oddly enough my Mom thought the idea to be Brandon's "good deed of the day", the only thing that stopped Brandon from shittin' in my tomatoes was good 'ol Me.

Did Brandon also mention the many times we would be watching TV and my good Mother would let a giant tuba fart in the kitchen, then Brandon would exclaim "SUE!! Did you just fart?"

Damn, I miss those days.

January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercchild
Not sure whether to laugh or cry! Ok so maybe I am stupid, but who is cchild in this story? DYING TO KNOW! That comment made me laugh out loud at work! LOL
I only had my cousins to play with as a child! We went "spelunking" a lot, which meant playing in the woods! Suprised we made out alive and to reach adulthood!
I love your stories Monica, it is something I can definately relate to!
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
cchild is my older brother's best friend. I've known him since I was about 8 and had a crush on him since about that age - until he up and married his high school sweetheart on me. This is him on the left.
January 12, 2006 | Registered CommenterMonica
Oh monica! I'm so sorry I embarrassed you so bad, If I had it to do over I would....uh...wouldn't change a thing!!! I loved my bikes and hey little lady, seems to me we had a couple a wild rides ourselves racing down university ave, in the riverbottoms, remember? My racing up the canyon relieved a lot of pent up anger,the way my life was and struggling to raise you 4 kids was my only out at times. Although I don't appear to be a very respectable person in the story, I loved it! Your writing never ceases to amaze me, and although the entire story is completely true, my ninja kawasaki was a 600 not 650... Case!! Are those your brothers? Holy shit! I am old! You Child boys always were a beautiful breed, and your wonderful mother was the coolest granola eating,pee fertilizing hippie mormon mom I ever met. Gotta love "Zone B" Utah,
January 12, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
Oh goodness Monica they are HOT!!!! Ooh goodness me! :)
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Hmm, I think I am blushing....

January 13, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercchild
You should be! You guys are cute! LOL
I rode the school bus with my cute neighbor boys, I used to get under the seat and tie their shoelaces together! To this day when I see them in public they say hi and we laugh about it! They are STILL HOT! Shad and Patrick! WOO WEE!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Should be against the law cchild for you and your brothers to have the hot gene's. TSK..TSK!
January 13, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterFiabug
I almost feel famous. Childs was right. I thought he was lying when he said I was in your "blog". (what the crap is a blog?) I have a hard time believing the whole private detective thing though. The story makes me laugh out loud, (I think people put LOL there) and brings back some great memories. I thought I was the one going undercover, but NO DICE, you were a step ahead of me. Love your writing, stay in touch.
April 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

I just wanted to drop a comment and say that I actually found you through Violent Acres, but now I am addicted. You are a great writer and I have been spending days reading your chapters. Just wanted to say you have a new reader.

Take Care.


April 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMegan

I know how it feels to be shocked. Ten years ago, I came out as a gay man and transvestite shocking my conservative family and like your mom, I ride a Ninja 750 but exclusively as a woman. While I am not fully a woman, I love the feel of wearing my black women's motorcycle leather, zooming off and telling the naysayers to "kiss my a**" and getting the feel while my boyfriend (now fiancee) rides too.
Family is important and kudos to your mom. I hope my soon to be step-daughters will understand that one day.
With love, Viv
P.S.: Do you have a picture of your cool mom?

September 27, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterViviana

I ride of a Ninja 750 but exclusively as a woman. this Nimja will help them to provides some useful tips.

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