I blame all this nostalgia on Christmas.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the pain-laced good memories Christmas always conjures up.
Pain because it all was so good and now it’s all gone, never to be experienced by American children again.
What are the top 10 gifts you’ve ever received for Christmas?
The year I turned 12 my parents bought me a Schwinn bicycle for Christmas.
It was 1965 and we lived in a fairly small and incredibly safe town.
Those two things equalled unparalleled freedom for a girl.
That bike meant independence, it made me ubiquitous.
It also meant I could ditch my younger brother who followed me everywhere just because he could.
We lived in the nicest subdivision in town. Built along the shores of the very cold and very swift Sacramento River, our neighborhood boasted the President of the local Bank of America branch, our town Doctor, the Principal and Superintendent of Schools, several school teachers, attorneys, and business owners. In short, everybody who was anybody. Also we had excellent dirt because the river used to flood every year until Shasta Dam was built. My own Mother, otherwise a serial killer of all things green, grew beautiful gardenias, known to be among the fussiest of landscape plants.
In the summer the air always smelled of fresh cut grass and toward evenings, Kingsford charcoal briquettes.
My Schwinn will forever live in my memories of three successive summers that propelled me, all too quickly, from childhood to adulthood. I made my daily neighborhood rounds on that bike stopping first at Jodi Robertson’s house where we played with Barbie & Ken right there in the middle of the Living room with the Dream House and Ken’s convertible spread all over the floor. My Mom would never have allowed all that junk in the Living room. Also Jodi’s Mom made the best yellow cake from scratch. At first I didn’t want to eat something ‘made from scratch’ mostly because I had no idea what that was, and it sounded more veterinary than culinary. But Jodi’s older brother, Eric, who was my age and in my 7th grade homeroom kept shoving them down while leaning over the kitchen sink, so I was emboldened. Good decision. I’d kill for that recipe now.
It was hot in the summer. Like record setting hot. National records, not just state. Every one of us could swim and there were about five swimming pools spread around so we’d be found in one of them every single day. We moved like migrating wildebeest through the neighborhood. On a perpetual hunt for Marco Polo. If one Mom had a headache or a kid with chicken pox we’d just move on to another water hole. And then we’d gather quarters and ride up Stingy Lane to Dodson’s Market. The candy counter at Dodson’s was legendary. If anyone had said epic back then it would have been epic. We let the pack instinct guide us in electing leaders and we all learned the finer arts of compromise and negotiation. Those who didn’t picked up their marbles and went home. They came back the next day because, well, where else were they gonna go? We had the good grace to not make them grovel. It was an unofficial Summer School class in preparation for Life.
While looking at my tree today, now denuded of the gifts, I thought about that Schwinn bicycle.
What happened to my Schwinn? There’s no way my brother rode it.
It was pink. Girlie pink.
So what happened to that bike?
Tomorrow I’m calling my Mom and asking her just when she got rid of my Schwinn.
Oh for just one more carefree summer on a pink Schwinn bike.
John Mayer has the same question about his lunchbox.