The Christmas Present

I always loved things with wheels. The greatest thrill for me was climbing into my wagon, giving a little push and off I went, down the longest hill in the world. I knew that any slight twitch on the handle would send me spinning on to the unforgiving concrete, ripping open my nine year old knees and elbows, but that made it just that much more exciting. After the wagon had self destructed, I went looking for an old skate to make into a skate board. It would be fifty years before you could buy a skateboard in a store, but I didn’t want to wait. The front half of the clamp-on skate I nailed to one end of a two foot piece of two by four and the back two wheels to the other end. It wasn’t necessary, but since I wanted a deluxe model, I attached a vertical piece on the front for steering. Roller bearings souped up with a squirt from Dad’s oil can allowed a pretty decent speed down the hills.

My year younger brother and I didn’t have a bike, but Christmas was coming and you never know. We had just moved to a small four room bungalow and there was little
money for presents. We both pored over our Christmas lists, allotting two dollars to each family member. Storing the much folded list in my pocket, my mother took us to the local five and ten cent store to pick out our gifts. I usually tried to give two gifts, one hand made by myself and one store bought. I never had much faith in the hand made gifts and even to me they looked worthless. I don’t know what my father did with all those ties, gloves, and belts, but we had a great time giving them. My parents always waited for us to be in bed on Christmas Eve before they set up the tree and placed the presents. One reason was that my father waited until Christmas Eve to buy the tree. It seldom cost more than two dollars and copious amounts of aluminum icicles filled most of the spaces. We were too awed and happy to wonder where everything so suddenly came from to ask any questions. We chalked everything up to Santa Claus.

After getting about three hours sleep, my parents called us into the living room. There in front of a ceiling high Christmas tree stood the biggest bike I had ever seen. Gleaming black fenders covered fat white wall tires. A wire basket hung on the handle bars and a spring carrier sat on the back. All the chrome sparkled like new and the leather seat looked impossibly high. I don’t know if it was foresight or just luck, but I didn’t mind at all that it was a girl’s bike. I never could have mounted a boy’s bike, especially a twenty