We are in the home building business, and they say that home is where the heart is. For a child, however, you could say that home is where the Bike is, especially at Christmas time.
I remember my first bike. It had a banana seat and was very cool! If I tried very hard, I could almost pop a wheelie on it, almost. Playing cards clothes-pinned to the spokes turned that bike into my Harley Davidson, and I roared around the neighborhood on it; a 10-year old make-believe cop stopping the neighbors and demanding to inspect their driver’s licenses. That bike did for me what bikes typically do for youngsters; it provided me with a taste of freedom and joy.
Later my parents got me a bigger bike, painted red. We used to take our bikes to Myers Bicycle Shop in Southend for repairs occasionally. I can still smell the odor of unfinished hardwood floors and chain oil that permeated the place. We had them add a big basket on the front of my red bike, and it served as a workhorse thereafter; helping me deliver our afternoon newspaper, The Charlotte News, in my neighborhood. The basket was almost bigger than the bike, and made it top-heavy when loaded; making it a challenge to keep it from spilling over and dumping carefully folded newspapers all over the ground, which it did from time to time. But it was mine, and I was free to pedal it pretty much where I pleased, and it helped me earn my first spending money.
Bikes are an important part of many children’s lives. There is a story that my Mother tells from time to time about her childhood, and about her bike. She and her brother desperately wanted new bikes for Christmas one year, as their old bikes were dingy, dinged up and worn out. But it was during the Great Depression, and there was no money for new bicycles. Yet on Christmas morning, they awoke to find bright, shiny, sparkling bikes under the Christmas tree. They were elated! It was years before they learned that the bikes were not new at all; their father had painstakingly dismantled their old bikes, repainted and refurbished them, and lovingly placed them under the tree. They had assumed that the bikes were brand-new.
There is a local organization called The Spokes Group that collects funds to give bikes to be distributed by Charlotte’s Christmas Bureau, which provides toys, gifts and bikes so that parents for whom money is tight can, in turn, provide the joy of a new bicycle to their children on Christmas morning. I volunteered at the Christmas Bureau years ago. I manned the big wheel the guests spin to see if they will win a bike, as there are never enough. I’ll never forget the very dignified response of one woman who failed to win a bike for the grandson she was raising: “Well, that’s ok. Maybe next year.” I doubt I could have mustered that much dignity were I in her place. I think about that woman, and my mother’s story every year at this time, and that, along with fond memories of my own first bikes, is why I make a donation to the Spokes Group. It’s $70 of spending money, enough to cover the cost of one brand new bike and helmet. I invite you to do the same.
It’ll add joy to a child’s Christmas. And, I suspect, it’ll take you back to memories of your first home, and your first bike, and add to your joy this Christmas as well!