When I was five I rode a wooden toboggan, the old kind with metal runners and eye-shriveling top speeds and pretty much nothing controlling it on steep descents, the alleged steering column a piece of twine connected to the upturned front. We were back in Iowa City, birthplace of a guy from CSI:NY and yours truly, visiting from the western-PA town where my dad had his first teaching job at Allegheny College. I, like any five year old returning to his ancestral home, pictured myself as Odysseus carried back to Ithaca upon a lone galley by the fates and sheer force of will, where "fates" are my mom and "sheer force of will" is my dad — the galley was our mid-90s Jeep Wrangler, forrest green, like something Smokey the Bear would drive if he had the fine motor control to manage a sort of gummy stick shift.
I actually remember almost nothing about the trip itself except for a few flashes of primal terror while going down this cartoonishly steep, ice-covered road that was blocked off every winter for sledding, which is completely bonkers considering all the perfectly gentle, snow-covered hills in nearby parks. It was bitterly cold, cold in the wet, midwestern kind of way where the snot in your nose, defying your intuitive kindergarten-level understanding of o-chem and microscopic structures of viscous liquids, freezes into crystals the moment you step outside. Exacerbated, of course, by the wind-enema happening to your nasal cavities, eyes, open mouth, and whatever else your parents neglected to cover or wrap before sending you, their eldest and most valuable child, careening down a goddamn 45º ice sheet on a rusty toboggan with nothing but frozen concrete on every side.
Not that I'm bitter. I'd like to say I learned something from this caution-to-the-wind approach to parenting, like maybe that I learned that sometimes you need to go without your training wheels and let fear of death be your guide, but it seems more honest to just file this with all the other funny, slightly dark stories to never tell child protective services. Oh well.
For our twenty-first issue we present Training Wheels, stories of finding what helps you survive, of the obscure secrets we keep, and of what happens when support systems are yanked, unceremoniously, from under our full weight: crashes, stumbles, or something untapped and unknown. We'd also like to welcome a few new people on the editorial board, people we're trying out for when our beloved '15s leave us in June. The newbies were a huge help with putting this issue together, so please excuse the hilariously long masthead and thank them if you see them around campus.
We hope you like it.