My First Bicycle

We were so poor growing up that to me having any kind of toy was a luxury.  I remember once I had been so desperate I even stole something from my cousin.  It seemed he had so many toys and I had none.  He would never miss the one I took.  I justified it that way in my mind and felt I could sneak away with out the theft being noticed.  But I got caught, ofcourse… my cousin was so generous he ended up giving me more than a single toy, he taught me how to ride a bicycle.

Most kids growing up have had their first bicycle well before they turn 11, but not me.  If my cousin and I were to go anywhere he would ride me double on one of the several bikes they had.  Other kids in his neighborhood had their own bicycle but ownership was an elaborate expense in my neck of the woods.  I could only dream about it. 

One day my cousin decided he was tired of transporting me. I learned how to balance, pedal and steer that afternoon… stopping was the hardest part. From then on I would ride one of his sister’s bikes whenever we went anywhere.  Then the urge grew stronger, it was all I could think about.  I ached for the unattainable freedom that would come with owning my first bike.  I cursed my existence and grew despondent.  A bike meant more than just ownership, it was an equalizer.  I could travel under my own power with my cousin and his friends, go left or right at will, I would have my independence and own identity.  I loathed being seen riding a girl’s bike, his sister’s bike.  But I knew my mother couldn’t afford one.  My spirit was crushed with the weighty knowlege of our poverty. 

My oldest sister had married when I was about 9 to a man named Bob.  He was a dark haired, good looking man that had this common sense and knowledge that left me in awe every time I was near him.  I had grown up to that ripe old age without a dad or a male role model.  I didn’t know the first thing about hunting or fishing, carpentry, auto mechanics, sports or constructive tomfoolery.  Bob had wisdom that I adored and I immediately took to him like he was a godsend. 

Working with Bob at various projects was exciting as we got to know one another.  He seemed to make it interesting and fun.  Our conversations were heart to heart and he taught me a morality that I hadn’t learned until that point.  Bob expounded on things like how to be a man and overcome my fears, to stand up for myself and do what was right.  He had a love for nature and a respect for the creatures that shared it with us.  I had only been aware of my miseries and what I could not possess, I repeatedly moped about the bicycle that I would never own.

 As time went on my Mom wanted to move to another city across the state.  We moved around alot in those days, usually because the rent became due and we couldn’t pay it.  I was still in school and it was decided that this time I could stay with my oldest sister and Bob long enough to finish the school year.  I was thrilled, being with Bob was like hanging around with the older brother I never had.  He taught me how to work with tools and took me hunting.  We’d haul ass around in a beater pickup truck that he constantly tinkered with and claimed was about to break down.  Bob would ask me whenever we went somewhere in it, “Do you think we’ll make er?”  We always did.

Bob had played football in high school.  He had lived in the same area most his life.  He spent time with his Dad, respected him and enjoyed his company.  He worked at several trades and built the first house my sister and he lived in.  Bob was strong and peaceful, he’d even picked guitar in a country music band for awhile.  He loved to play cards and laugh, he fit in with my uncles like he had been a part of our family forever.  Bob was generous and kind.  I was always proud to be hanging around with him and bragged about it like he was my own father.

Christmas was a nasty holiday for me because I never got what I wanted.  I was convinced I wasn’t a good enough kid even though I wasn’t sure what being bad meant.  I knew my cousin would rake in the loot and I was just as good as he was… at least in my mind, but disappointment came as a commodity wrapped in  dread when the season approached.  I didn’t dare hope for anything, but I yearned for two wheels and a set of handlebars…

It was to be one of the best holidays of my life.  My sister and Bob had purchased things for their daughters and me that piled up under the tree like carefully placed stones.  My Mom had made it back with my other sisters and we ripped the wrappings and thrilled at every gift.  Even if the most we got were new socks and a shirt, the festivity of gift opening was intoxicating.  I smiled until my cheeks hurt.  Soon the shredding gift paper stopped crinkling, each individual haul was separated and we surveyed the carnage.  I was happy for the first Christmas that I could remember.

Then Bob got up and went to the back of the house.  We didn’t think too much about it because the adults had been moving back and forth, getting hugs and thank yous from us kids.   Bob called to me from the utility room. I went back with the thrill of the holiday still lingering in my mind, not aware of the impression that was being made for me to relive time and again forever.  There was a red, 26″ three speed Schwinn propped up on it’s kick stand waiting for me when I got there.  I broke down and wept like a baby.

“Well… what’s a matter? don’t you like it?” Bob teased at me.

“I love it!” I bawled, not ashamed to cry in front of him.  I thanked Bob a million times, like my life had just been spared… and perhaps it had.  I had never wanted something so badly before yet felt it so unattainable to have that I resigned myself to disappointment without a struggle. That gift changed my life.   

It wasn’t new, but Bob had repainted and refurbished it himself.  I rode that Schwinn up and down the street over the ice and snow the rest of the day believing it to be the best Christmas I would ever have… and I was right.

For all those good, good memories… Robert, thank you. 

Rest in peace.

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8 Responses to “My First Bicycle”

  1. Cyndi Says:

    I will never forget that Christmas. I think Carolyn still has a picture of you on that bike, grinning from ear to ear. Bob was a strong, constant influence in our lives for many years and his wisdom was something to cherish.

  2. damewiggy Says:

    Such a beautiful, touching story. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  3. karen62979 Says:

    Ok, crying before 6 AM isn’t allowed.

    Every young boy should have a “Bob” in his life, for these very reasons. You’ll get the chance to pass it on, & I’m sure you will.

    Wonderful story.

  4. blue_calumet_satyr Says:

    Well, I always love to hear/read inspiring stories…

    In a sense, I find that it probably took a lot for you, as a writer/individual, to expose yourself with something so personal.

    And I appreciate it, so much.

  5. seamonster02 Says:

    Thanks for the post, brother dear, it was very nice. Maybe this is something you can share at Bob’s funeral.

  6. babychaos Says:

    What a bloody brilliant story and what a top bloke Bob must have been. Top post and I’m really sorry for your loss, he sounds like the kind of guy who will leave a big gap in a lot of people’s lives now he’s gone.

    Take care you.

    Cheers

    BC

  7. chirchi965 Says:

    A very touching story, I’m near to tears. Sorry for your loss.

    Take care 🙂

    Agila

  8. amy Says:

    This is an incredible story. Beautifully written. Please write more about your life. Bob sounds like a wonderful special amazing person. Thank you for sharing him with the blogging world!

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