Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Bicycle Under The Tree

I never got a bike for Christmas, myself, but one of my earliest memories is of a bike under the tree on Christmas morning.  It was in the duplex where we lived when we first moved to Donelson, so I was either 3 or 4 years old, and the bike was my sister's present.

It was a blue Sears middleweight, with the loop frame and painted fenders.  Daddy had stayed up late assembling it, only to realize that he had inserted the handlebar into the stem backward.  Unable to pull the grips off, he had resorted to cutting one off with his pocket knife so that he could set it straight.

I didn't notice that, and I don't know if Joy did, either.  I just remember seeing it sitting there, sillhouetted against the curtains on the front window.

Joy had that bike for years.  It was the bike she was riding when her foot slipped off of the pedal as she rode in flip-flops. And,  I suppose that she had it until she got her ill-fated FreeSpirit 10-speed which I destroyed by riding it off-road when I was in junior high.

The blue fender had a bruise on it, for it a long time.  I suppose it had gotten scratched and Daddy had touched it up with mis-matched paint, slightly darker and a little more purple than the factory blue.  But we always referred to it as "the bruise".

We laid crayons on the fender, and set the bike out in the sun on hot summer days, then blended the softened Crayola colors into multi-hued crayons.   (Or, in my case, into brown, since I seemed to always overdo the mashing together part.)

It's funny to me that I have so many memories of someone else's bike.  But, Joy and I were close (and remain so, even though 1700 miles separate us), and I saw a lot of that bike as we rode on the dead-end, or played cowboys, or whatever we did around the neighborhood.

I wonder, sometimes, if my dad had any idea, when he was struggling to get that bike put together, probably cursing under his breath as he skinned a knuckle, just how many miles would pass under those wheels and how many memories would be generated by the bike.  Those days seemedto me as if they would last forever, but now they seem more like memories of a landscape glimpsed through the windows of a moving train.

But, those glimpses are anchored in my mind, to a great extent, by the image of that bicycle under the tree, so many Christmases ago.

I hope you all had a great holiday, whether it was Christmas, or Channukah, or Kwanzaa or Tet, the Pagan Solstice Celebration, or whatever...  And I hope that all of you have had, or someday will have, your own memories of a bike under the tree.


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