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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Most Disappointing Christmas Ever

By Carl Hansen

It happened nearly 70 years ago but the memory is still fresh in my mind. For months I had dropped hints to my father that I wanted, more than anything else in the world, a two-wheeled bike for Christmas.

In the early days of December while doing some “detective work” in the basement of our home, I spied what I was sure was a response that Dad had picked up on the hints.

A large, cardboard box was crammed up near the floor joists just high enough that I could not get up to it and check it out. But since I had not seen that particular box before, I immediately assumed that in a few weeks I would be riding my new bike through the streets of east Denver free as a bird.

A little later, when the Christmas tree was up and wrapped gifts began to appear around and beneath it, sure enough there was a big box among them carefully wrapped with my name on it.

Seeing it up close rather than out of reach in the basement, I was a bit suspicious about my assumption that it contained bicycle. It was smaller than I had first thought but knowing the frugality of my father, I convinced myself that the bike was inside that box, but in unassembled parts waiting for Dad’s craftsmanship to put it together.

Our family practice was to open presents on Christmas morning after the family returned home from the early morning service of worship the Swedes know as Julotta.

As the youngest child, I had the option to skip that service (unlike my two sisters) so as soon as I was sure the house was empty, I headed for the front room and the Christmas tree. I was unable to contain my excitement until the family came back from church. I simply had to find out what was in that box before the “official” gift-opening time was at hand.

I slid the box into the middle of the room and as carefully as possible unwrapped enough of it to be able to peer inside and see its contents. That is when the disappointment crashed down.

Inside the box I saw no unassembled pieces of a bike. Instead, I saw that the box contained parts for a red coaster wagon - not at all what I had dreamed about.

But now I had two problems. One: managing to get the box re-wrapped so no one knew I had already opened it. Two: managing to convey excitement when the family came home and witnessed my reaction to seeing what was inside the box.

Somehow I pulled all of that off and no one was the wiser. But that is not the end of the story.

A couple of years later, a new bike (fully assembled) did come my way. And, true to my Dad’s frugality, it was such a large one that until I grew into it he had to put wooden blocks on the pedals for me to be able to ride.

And ride it I did through grade school and junior high until it was not “cool” to show up on a bike once I started high school.

That bike is long gone but I still have a wagon. It is not the one that came that Christmas morning so long ago, but one my wife and I gave to our children when they were small. It was used to take them for long rides and later to do that with our grandchildren when they came to visit.

And still today, no longer shiny and new, it is pressed into service for any number of various chores around my yard.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thank you for the wonderful story of a disappointing Christmas years ago. I wonder if all of us have a story like that. I know that when I was 12, I really wanted skis, poles and boots. There was a ski-school with free bus transportation on Saturday in those days for kids my age and older.

My parents got me some books which were way too advanced for me. Finally, I told them that I really wanted skis. Then they took me out and got me everything I needed for skiing. It was wonderful. I skied for decades and became a pretty fair skier.

Wow, Carl, I can just live that scene with you. I have so many pictures in my mind of my childhood, including getting a green bicycle that was absolutely marvelous. I still ride, not the same bike of course, and I will be 81 in January.
Once I tiptoed down the basement steps before Christmas, saw my father working on an artist's easel for me and when he saw me, he said:
"Damn it!" I was so shocked by his language and ashamed of myself.
Thanks for the memories.

Enjoyed your story for how well it was told and how much I could relate to it. My bike showed up five months later after I had given up hope. What a surprise! I tried to duplicate that for my children, but my sweet wife, bless her heart, never let the children want for anything.

I remember when my sister peeked into some Christmas gifts early. I was in awe of her brazen courage, but also wondered why she couldn't wait. Good story that called up my own memory. And I, too, have a little red wagon that has been around forever. Thanks for sharing.

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