It may not have been the most stylish bike, but it served its purpose. I can still see it now: grimy pink handlebars, light gray frame with little white hearts chipping off, rusting silver hand brakes with old pink wires running down to the brake pads, and a worn out pink seat to match the handlebars. It was quite possibly the most disappointing present I have ever received.
Several days before my eighth birthday, I was sitting in the living room with my little sister Kelly. She was four at the time, almost five, and still did not know how to keep a secret. There she was, squirming on the couch across from me ready to burst. She had the “I know something you don’t know!” look on her face, and to keep from laughing, she had to keep covering her mouth – which was missing both front teeth – with her tiny hands. It was so much information to keep all to herself! She couldn’t stop fidgeting; I could tell that she was torn between right and wrong. How fun would it be to let it all out, just tell me everything! And then, all of the sudden…
“I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GETTING FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY!” she shrieked, and smiled wider, if that was possible.
To her credit, she didn’t let it all spill, but I could tell that she wouldn’t last long. With a little bit of coaxing, my little sister would fold like a deck of cards.
At this point, I did stop and think before proceeding. Did I really want to know exactly what I was getting? Deep down I knew I didn’t; it would take all the fun out of opening the presents. But the curiosity was starting to get to me.
“So, Kelly, maybe you could give me a hint or something?” I said. That wasn’t cheating, right? I wouldn’t know for sure, and I’d still be surprised when I opened everything. No, this definitely wasn’t against the rules.
“It’s a bike!” she exclaimed. Her anxiousness started to melt into what today I would guess was a mixture of regret and relief. Finally this huge responsibility was taken off of her shoulders. She probably knew that she shouldn’t have said anything, but she could finally relax.
A bike, this was great! I could hardly believe my good fortune! I could just see it in my mind’s eye: new, shiny, fast, and brightly colored. I would be the envy of the entire neighborhood! Everyone would stop and watch me ride down the road on my new bike, just wishing one day that they could have one as nice. I couldn’t wait.
Since it was so great to know what one present was, I figured there was no harm in knowing just a few more. So, I asked Kelly if she might know what any of my other presents were. It turns out that she knew what just about all of them were. My Little Ponies, Barbies, paint by number pictures, and even a new Cabbage Patch doll. This was going to be a great birthday! I would have to fake the whole surprise thing, but who cared? I was getting a new bike!
After the longest few days of my life, the party finally arrived. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles were all in attendance for the celebration. When the pile of presents was placed before me, I ripped through them like a maniac. Brightly colored wrapping paper was flying everywhere.
Making “oohs” and “ahhs” in all the appropriate places, I think I put on a pretty good show. No one suspected a thing. I was even pleasantly surprised to find a few things that Kelly had forgotten to mention or perhaps didn’t know about. When everything was opened, I waited patiently for the one. After what seemed like an eternity my mom informed me that I had a final surprise waiting for me outside in the driveway. This was it!
I raced through the dining room and into the living room. I threw open the screen door, letting it slam behind me. When I got to the porch and saw it, I stopped dead in my tracks. My smile slowly faded; something was horribly wrong. It couldn’t be, maybe it was just a bad dream! The bike my parents had gotten me was not new at all; this bike was…..used.
The only thing I could manage to say was, “Oh, it’s not new.”
The bike that was sitting in the driveway, my bike, was nowhere near what I had imagined. It was an old gray and pink fixed up ten speed my dad had bought at a garage sale. Its dull silver kickstand was propped out, barely supporting its own weight. It looked like it might fall over if anything stronger than a light breeze started to blow. How could this be happening? It was so ugly! My dad was so proud of fixing it up, and I didn’t even have the spirit to take it for a test run. I know I should have acted somewhat excited, but it was all so disappointing. All this anticipation, and it was used; talk about a letdown!
After the unveiling, we all went back in and had cake and ice cream. Since I wasn’t very hungry, I ended up just pushing soggy cake around my plate. Later, I tried to play with the new toys that I received, but they just weren’t the same. The paint by number paint seemed runny. The Barbie’s clothes didn’t fit right. Even the My Little Ponies had lost some of their spirit. I guess it just takes a while to recover from such a traumatic experience.
The next day, I went back out to see the bike. I guess it wasn’t quite that bad. I mean, it had two wheels, handle bars, and pedals. That’s all you really need in a bike, right? Who was I kidding; of course it’s not! But I guess it didn’t really matter because that’s what I was getting. I finally got on and drove it all the way up and down New Horizon Avenue. I couldn’t really tell the difference between it and my last one. And thanks to my dad’s handyman skills it ran pretty smoothly.
The ugly bike turned out not to be that bad after all. I rode around my neighborhood with it for two years until my family moved to a house on a busier road; then it was relegated to driveway use only. With each passing season it was used less and less. The ugly bike spent its final years hanging upside down in the garage over my new means of transportation: my car.
This past summer, my used pink ten speed bike was sold at my grandma’s garage sale, and I can only imagine that it went to another little girl for her birthday. She may have been secretly expecting a new bike, but hopefully it got a better reception from her than it did from me.