I’ve suspended my Friday review posts through December in favor of Christmas memories shared, in the hope of inspiring myself (and the rest of you) to share your own stories with others. (Or here, in the comments. That’s always welcome too.)
The Christmas I turned nine, I wanted a ten-speed bike more than anything in the world. As a newly-minted third grader, the school rules permitted me to ride a bike to school and I couldn’t wait to join my friends at the bicycle racks. I’d been riding my purple banana-seat wonder for many years, and had even taken it to school, but I couldn’t keep up with the shiny ten-speeds no matter how hard I pedaled.
Plus, the purple banana seat, so cool when I was five, had grown a little geeky as I aged. (For the record, so had I, but that’s another post.)
I told my parents months in advance. I even wrote a letter to Santa-who-is-really-dad-or-maybe-mom-but-hopefully-I’ll-get-presents-from-him-as-long-as-my-kid-brother-still-believes. I waited for Christmas with rising excitement, knowing my parents always managed to get us that one present we wanted so badly but slightly concerned because I’d never asked for anything so expensive before.
Three days before Christmas, the family went to dinner at a local pizza restaurant (any of my readers remember Regular Jon’s in Brentwood, CA?) and while my mom and brother went to get the pizzas Dad asked me to stay at the table with him.
“Susan,” he said slowly, “there’s something I need to tell you, and I hope you’re old enough to understand. I know how much you want a bike, and we tried really hard to find one for you, but it’s just too expensive this year. I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’d rather tell you now so you’re not disappointed on Christmas.”
It took every bit of strength in my nine year-old spirit not to cry right there at the table. I managed to eat and get home without showing how badly I felt, but that night I cried myself to sleep.
I still looked forward to Christmas. I knew there would be presents, if not the one I wanted most. On Christmas morning I raced my brother down the stairs, eager to see the tree. Packages spilled out across the floor – more than I expected, given Dad’s solemn news. We dropped to our knees with cries of delight, reaching for the packages and looking for the tags as my parents entered the room behind us.
“Hey, Susan,” Dad said, “are you sure that’s the one you want?”
I looked up from the mid-sized package in my hands. He pointed at the tree.
“I thought you’d be more excited about that one.”
A blue ten-speed bicycle stood beside the tree with a big silver bow around the handlebars. It had no tag but it didn’t need one. It was a girl’s bike. My bike.
My parents had come through after all.
As it turned out, there never was a financial problem – money was tight, but not tight enough to impact my new bike. Dad fabricated the story to ensure a Christmas surprise. Some might argue with his methods (and mom definitely did – apparently he hadn’t mentioned our little talk to her, and the first she heard of it was Christmas morning at the tree) but no one can dispute the success of his little ruse. I was surprised. And delighted. And decades later I still remember the Christmas morning I didn’t even see the bicycle standing beside the tree. It wasn’t supposed to be there, so I wasn’t looking for it – and we’re often blind to things we don’t expect.
I’m still not sure how I missed that bike, but I’ll never forget how much I loved it or the amusing (if only in hindsight) way my Dad tried to ensure a surprise. It’s an odd sort of memory to share, perhaps, but among my Memories of Christmas past it stands out as one of the best.
So, what’s your best Christmas memory? What was the bicycle you thought you’d never get that miraculously ended up under the tree (or whichever symbol-of-observance you’d like to offer)?