Christmas Past: The New BikeWoman in the Middle | December 13, 2013
What is it about Christmas and new bicycles that is so often intertwined?
I received a two-wheeler bike when I was seven or so, but we lived in a hilly area and I never learned how to ride it. Fast forward four years and we moved to a neighborhood filled with flat streets and kids who rode bikes all the time. How embarrassing to be the only one who didn’t know how to ride a bike! With the motivation to fit in biting at my tail, I learned to ride my bike with the help of the other kids. Of course, that little bike was now much too small for me, but my Dad put the seat in the highest position and like kids everywhere, I adapted, riding with my knees up around my ears.
I rode that bike for hours and as Christmas approached I began to long for a bike that was bigger, a more appropriate size than the little one bought when I was seven. There was just one problem. My parents were not making much money right then. My Dad had been laid off from his aerospace job a couple of years before and we had moved so he could go into business with a friend. That wasn’t working out so well and my mother was commuting about 45 minutes each way to a bookkeeping job that was our primary means of support. My Mom explained that there probably wouldn’t be enough money for a new bike. The money problems were true but I don’t know if Mom told me the story about not being able to afford the bike to thow me off the scent or because she didn’t want me to get my hopes up. What ever the case it worked and I did not expect a bike under the tree that year.
Christmas morning, even though I was 12, I still got up before my parents did and raced to the front of the house. There, to my surprise, was a nice big bike. I gasped! I was so shocked! I tried to be quiet since it was so early but it was all I could do to not start doing a loud and gleeful happy dance! But I learned later that the best part of my bike was the story behind it.
My Mom bought the bike unassembled, probably because she and my Dad thought they could save a few dollars on the assembly charge. My Dad was handy with tools so I am sure he thought it wouldn’t be a problem. After I went to bed he began trying to put the bike together at our neighbor’s house. Unfortunately he ran into some problems. The neighbors (who were also our friends) tried to help but they ran into problems, too. So someone decided to get the teenage boy from across the street, whose name I still remember: Peter. He came over and between Peter, the neighbors, and my Dad the bike was finally put together.
My Mom told me this later, as a “you won’t believe what we went though” story. But I didn’t see it that way. What I saw was a neighborhood coming together to help my parents give me what I wanted most in the world for Christmas. The bike and what it took to put it together for me became one of my most precious Christmas memories.
Just a couple of months ago I was reading a local history book about the area we lived in at the time. Imagine my surprise when I saw several pages of photos of Peter, his parents, and their extended family, who farmed in that area. It was nice to see and be reminded of that Christmas when I was 12.