It was June 1934. The scooter was bright red and it had really big wheels, bigger than any wheels this eight-year-old had ever seen on a scooter before. I sat on the front verandah and watched longingly as the sandy-haired boy rode it past the front gate. I'd asked Santa for a scooter last Christmas but he'd brought another doll, this doll lying on the verandah beside me, all pink cheeks and blonde ringlets, dressed in a frilly organdie dress. My friends envied me that doll. I, on the other hand, envied the sandy-haired boy his bright red scooter.
Usually I could "get around Father"; some smiles, a drawn out "p-l-e-a-s-e, a few kisses and cuddles and the battle was won. But not the battle about a scooter for Christmas. Father hadn't even said, "I'll discuss it with your Mother", he'd just said "No, my dear, scooters are far too dangerous and anyway, riding a scooter is not for young ladies. You do want to be a lady, don't you?" I'd remember being tempted to reply that "being a lady":always seemed to mean missing out on fun.
So on this January morning I sat and watched as the boy rode furiously down to the corner of the street and then back again to his front gate three houses away. Faster and faster he went and I became fascinated. I abandoned the golden-haired doll and went to the front fence, being careful to check that my parents weren't watching, leaning over the front fence and staring was "common". But I was safe, Father was in his vegetable garden at the back of the house and Mother was inside doing the ironing.
Suddenly the scooter shuddered to a halt directly in front of me and the ginger-haired boy said, "G'day. Great scooter in't? Wanna go?" This well brought-up young lady was well aware of the correct reply; "Yes, it is a lovely scooter and it's kind of you to offer me a turn, but no thank you. Girls don't ride scooters." However, I was surprised, not to say a little frightened, to hear myself saying eagerly, "Oh yes please!" and to find myself on the footpath, one foot on the scooter plate, the other on the ground, ready to set off – about to play in the street, something which I knew was done only by "urchins" and most definitely not by well brought-up young ladies! I knew this because my parents were always telling me so.
But too late, the spell had been cast: From the first tentative push of my foot I experienced a rush of excitement I'd never experienced before. The harder I pushed my foot into the pavement the faster I went. This certainly beat sitting on the front step curling the doll's hair! It was even better than being on the swing in the park, the really big one.
I dropped my shoulders and instinctively crouched lower, eyes almost closed, foot rhythmically pounding the pavement, oblivious to everything but the exhilaration of speed and then — the scooter juddered to a sudden halt, having hit an uneven section of the footpath. However I kept moving, right over the handlebars to land with a thud, left wrist twisted beneath me.
Literally and figuratively, I'd had come down to earth. The red scooter lay on its side, no longer looking so glamorous. The sandy-haired boy raced up, howling in anguish, "What 'yer done? Is it broke? Me Dad'll skin me if it's broke!" This mention of parental reaction reminded me that my own Father would be less than impressed if he learned of the escapade. Scrambled to my feet I limped back to the sanctuary of our verandah, holding the aching wrist. As I sat down shakily, the golden-haired doll seemed to stare at me smugly, as if to say "I told you so. That was not ladylike!" I decided I definitely did not care for that doll. However, at least Mother and Father were unaware of what had happened.
They were, of course, not to remain in ignorance. As the day wore on my left wrist began to ache dreadfully. Next morning it was even more painful and, it being Saturday and no school, I spent most of the day in my room reading By evening the wrist was beginning to swell noticeably. Finally, when I bumped my arm on the edge of the dinner table and couldn't stifle a gasp of pain, the secret was out.
"Greenstick fracture", the doctor said, as he strapped the wrist with heavy sticking-plaster. The full story poured out, accompanied by floods of tears. "I just wanted to go fast'" I sobbed. To my surprise the lectures weren't nearly as severe as I'd expected them to be.
However, the real surprise was to arrive several weeks later, on the morning of my ninth birthday. When I came down stairs for breakfast, Father said, "Good morning. birthday girl. Your present is on the back verandah – too big to wrap, I'm afraid." And there it stood – no, not a scooter, but a bright red bicycle.
A lady's bicycle, of course.