December 25, 2016

Best Christmas Present Ever

Dirtbike on syltI haven't always disliked Christmas. Like most children, I enjoyed it quite a bit when I was a child. As I sit here this morning trying (and failing) to get in the mood to write a Christmas-themed post, I find myself thinking back over what always used to make Christmas meaningful: the gifts.

Of all the Christmas presents I received over the years, which was the best? The answer is surprisingly easy. My favorite Christmas gift of all time would have had to be the dirt bike I received at age 9 or 10. It was by no means an expensive bike; I think it was even a knock-off brand, which was all my family could afford at the time. It didn't matter. It was new, it was mine, and it was wonderful.

Even better than the bike itself was what it represented - a new kind of freedom. I was mobile now. This was not my first bike, but it was the first that could go off-road. It was also a hell of a lot sturdier and fit me much better than the older bike I had been riding. This gave me more confidence and allowed me to go more places. And this being the late 1970's or early 1980's, my parents actually gave me the freedom to go places on my own without supervision (or a bike helmet). How times have changed!

I vividly remember hopping on the new bike that Christmas morning and riding until I was exhausted. I remember getting yelled at to come back inside eventually, but I didn't want to do so. I think I might have even tried to keep the bike inside that night instead of storing it in the garage. I am fairly sure I dreamed about it that night.

Riding the new bike to school for the first time was fantastic. It was not the sort of thing my peers were jealous of or anything like that. As mentioned above, it was an off-brand. But the great thing about this age was that none of that ever mattered to me. Sure, some of the other kids had far more expensive bikes that were lighter in weight and cooler looking, but that sort of thing really wasn't on my radar yet. My new bike was everything that I needed.

It is fairly obvious to me today when I think back to this Christmas that the real magic here wasn't the bike at all but the milestone it represented toward my becoming a bit more independent. It marked a turning point in the amount of freedom I was granted. I could now travel greater distances from home, and I was permitted to spend more time outside with friends. It certainly wasn't as dramatic a transition as my first car would be, but it was a big step in the same direction.

By today's standards, many parents would be appalled at the lack of parental supervision I received at this time. There were countless hours where I was away from home on that bike with my parents having no idea where to find me. I would not change a thing. I am forever grateful that I was allowed to be so independent and provided the opportunity to fall (which I did many times).