Sherry Hopkins Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas, 1964 brought bikes, matching bikes!

It’s 4 a.m. on Christmas morn and the house is cold and quiet. The only noises are the soft breathing of my parents and siblings and the click, click, swoosh of the floor furnace. The heat blows my nightgown against my cold legs as it rises almost lifelike from the furnace. I am standing in the hallway waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness before proceeding to the living room where I hope a bounty awaits me.

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I am always the first child up on Christmas morning. Because I am the oldest it is a position I cherish. As I wait for my eyes to clear, I run through my head the list of things I asked Santa for.  I especially wanted a new bicycle. Girl’s bikes had always been blue in the past but Western Auto had a new Western Flyer that was shiny red, like a firetruck, with whitewall tires and dual headlights just like a car. It was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. Long steamers of red and white hung from the white handle grips and I hoped beyond hope that it would soon be mine.

But there are three of us and bicycles are expensive. Daddy said that there wasn’t much money that year. “Santa’s broke,” he declared. But Daddy said that every year and so far neither Santa nor Daddy had disappointed us.

I can finally see well enough to make out my path. I quietly tiptoe into the living room and stand at the threshold. I can smell the Blue Spruce in front of the window; I can smell oranges and apples. I faintly smell rubber tires. As I sneak forth trying hard not to awaken anyone just yet I can see a bicycle from the glint of the streetlight. I see three bicycles and I gasp so loudly I’m sure I’ve awakened someone. I stand very still and quiet for another moment concentrating on the shapes I see. A wagon for my little brother and it’s filled with the fruit I smelled along with nuts and candy. On the couch laid out perfectly, are three sets of Sunday clothes and three sets of new pajamas. But the only thing my heart can focus on is the bicycle.

Bright red with a white seat and those headlights. I’ll be the envy of the neighborhood. I clamor over the toys and gifts and when all is to my satisfaction I run to wake my siblings. We all advance to the living room and jump up and down and grin and laugh as quietly as we can. Before long our parents are awake too and we rush them with shouts of joy and “look what I got, look!”

Mamma begins breakfast and the smell of coffee, biscuits, and bacon replaces the smell of Christmas. We beg to take our shiny new bikes out for a test drive. We all just really want to show off and let everyone see how generous ol’ Santa has been to us this year.

After breakfast is done, kitchen cleaned, and beds are made, we are finally allowed to go outside. Mamma and Daddy stand proudly on the porch with a watchful eye as we roll toward the street. Just as we all get on and begin to ride, out the door come our neighbors across the street. They are wheeling out the very same bicycles that we have. We stop in mid-roll breaking fast in the middle of the road while not believing what we are seeing. We turn to look at our parents and their faces express shock too.

Our joy was diminished that morning, and my Mamma was fighting mad. But we got over it and rode those beautiful bikes till the wheels literally fell off.

I don’t know if Mamma ever said anything to the neighbors but I know she said plenty behind the closed doors of our little house. It was a wonderful Christmas and I remember wishing as I stood in the dark cold hallway, that I would never grow up because I just couldn’t imagine not getting “Santa Claus.”

You get the picture.

(Contact Sherry at