Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas Memories - The Year of The Bicycle

We all have those moments in life where we remember who we were with, what time of day and exactly where we were when it happened. Some are historical moments like November 22, 1963 - moments that everyone who was alive back then remembers. And then there are private moments that mean nothing to others but mean oh, so much to us as individuals. For me, one of those moments was the Christmas when against all odds, Santa left a brand new bike under our tree. A new bike may not sound like much to some of you, but in 1959 at our house, it was nigh close to a miracle. Just four years earlier, our home and everything in it had burned to the ground and with no fire insurance, my parents struggled to build a new home. They never really recovered from the financial hardships the fire had caused. The fact that I knew this and had no expectations other than finding a few trinkets under the tree that year, made The Year of the Bicycle all the more miraculous.

We were a farming family; not a big farm but it produced enough, even in lean years, to feed and clothe the seven children in our family and still have a little extra. The fire changed all that, but the one thing it didn't change was the resilient spirit of my parents, their strength of character, and their unflinching determination to move on and not dwell on the past. I was the youngest of the seven who were spread out over a period of twenty-three years. At the time of the fire, there were only two of us left at home. All the rest had married and moved out. To help make ends meet, my mother took a job as a sales clerk at The Glamour Shop, a ladies' clothing store. Mama was everything I'm not. She was kind, courageous and outgoing - and she never met a stranger. Her kindness inspired kindness in others and in the Year of the Bicycle, that kindness paid off.

The Family Shoe Store was located right next door to The Glamour Shop and that year, they were giving away a bicycle for Christmas. It wasn't a raffle or a drawing. You wrote the name of a child on a small ticket and put it inside the large box that sat on the sales counter. The day before Christmas, the store owner would count the names in the box and whoever's name had the most entries would win the bike. Somehow my mama convinced her friends, coworkers, customers, acquaintances and complete strangers to go into the shoe store and write my name on a ticket and put it into the box. I have no idea how she did it. Surely, some of these people had a child that wanted a bike for Christmas, but on Christmas Eve, she was so certain my name would have the most entries, she wouldn't go home until the names were counted and I can imagine her excitement when my name was announced.

The next morning when I saw the bike under the tree, I didn't have a clue that it was mine. My sister and her children had come home from Kansas for Christmas and were staying with us. I assumed that the bike was for my nephew who is just a month younger than me. I passed right by it and rushed to the other side of the tree to find the large baking pan I had left out for Santa to fill with fruit, nuts, candy and toys. I was on a mission - I didn't want anyone to claim my stash! I'll never forget my sister grabbing me by the arm. I pulled away, thinking that Santa must have brought me more than he did her and she was trying to get to it first. She grabbed me again and pulled me over to the bike. It still didn't register. "It's nice. It must be Phil's," I said. "
It has your name on it," she said back.

No one fussed at me on that rainy Christmas day as I rode my new bike clumsily around the living room running into things and people. The Year of The Bicycle is one of my fondest memories, a memory that has been hard to top. And it's all because of my mother's kindness, strong spirit and sheer determination to bring it about - and the kindness of others to put the name of a child they didn't even know in a box.
Glenda Manus
December 28, 2018


  1. I love this story. Brought back many memories for me. Some of my greatest memories and hardest falls involved my bicycle. Keep writing your memories and stories...they give insight to the real Glenda. Your buddy, Carolyn

    1. Thank you for your comment, Carolyn! This time of year at this stage in my life gives time for reflection.


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