Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Best Birthday Present Ever!

This is the story that I used as a "starter" for the Senior Citizens that I worked with for June's Intergenerational Storytelling Workshops, sponsored by Arts on Wheels, in conjunction with the Richmond YMCAs.

The Seniors shared their stories with middle school students, who then transcribed the stories and created an illustrated cover that highlighted "the most important thing" about the story. Elaina Fejes was the gifted young artist who worked with the students on their illustrations.

Both the Seniors and the students enjoyed this process and are eager to do it again.

The Best Birthday Present Ever!

© 2012 Linda Goodman

                In February 1962, a few days before my tenth birthday, my father said to me, “Linda, your tenth birthday is a special birthday because it marks the end of your first decade in this world and the beginning of your second one. What would you like as your present on your special day?”
                On all of my prior birthdays, I had awakened in the morning to find a present waiting for me on the kitchen table.  Sometimes I got paper dolls. Sometimes I got a board game.  Sometimes I got a book (my favorite present - I loved to read). I had never before been asked what I actually wanted, though. Without hesitating, I squealed, “A bicycle!  I want a bicycle for my special birthday!”
                Few kids in my neighborhood had bicycles, but those who did made good use of them. Boys would put baskets on the front of their bikes and get jobs delivering the daily newspaper. Some kids used their bicycle baskets to carry home groceries for people who could not make it to the store themselves.  A bicycle could quickly (much more quickly than walking) get me to wherever I needed to go.
                My father did not seem to share my enthusiasm for the bicycle, though. His eyes ceased to twinkle and took on a worried appearance when he heard my request. “Let me think on that,” he responded.  I knew that meant that my request would most likely not be granted.
                The next day, after supper, Daddy took me aside and said, “Linda, I stopped by the Roses Five and Dime Store today, and the cheapest bicycle I could find there cost $15.95. There is no way that I can get that much money together before your birthday.
                Even though I had expected this, I still had to bite my lower lip to keep from crying. “Yes, Sir,” I whispered.  “I understand.”
                “Now don’t despair, Linda Sue!” Daddy urged, cupping his hand under my chin. As I looked into his gray eyes, I could see that their twinkle was back. “If you're willing to wait for six months,” he offered, “  I will put away $2.50 every month, and in August I can buy you that bicycle. Can you wait that long?”
                “Yes!” I gleefully shouted.  “I can wait!  I can wait a year if I have to.”
                Since my baby sister Evelyn’s seventh birthday was in August, Daddy and Momma decided we would have a dual birthday. There were two cakes, chocolate for me and yellow for Evelyn. There was a gallon of chocolate ice cream (we both declared chocolate to be our favorite ice cream flavor).  Best of all, we each got an ice cold sixteen ounce Lotta Cola, all to ourselves.
                Evelyn opened her present first: Barbie paper dolls! She was ecstatic! She loved Barbie, who at that time sported a long blond pony tail and did not have an occupation.
                After that, Daddy excused himself to go see a neighbor.  Five minutes later, he came back through the front door, escorting  a hot pink, twenty-six inch girl’s bicycle! It had a silver seat, a white wire basket, and a horn! I jumped up and down with excitement.  It was definitely worth the wait.
                I gave both Daddy and Momma bear hugs, all the while chanting, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”  It was the best birthday ever! Until I noticed my baby sister Evelyn, standing by my new bike, crying.
                If she had been sobbing loudly or throwing a fit, I would have had no sympathy for her. After all, that is what a spoiled child does. But Evelyn was just standing there, looking at my bike, with her lower lip quivering and threaded waterfalls flowing freely from her eyes.
                Then she turned those eyes on me. “Sissy,” she whimpered, “I’m glad you got a bicycle. It’s real nice.”
                Something inside me melted. I got a tissue and wiped her eyes.  “You know what, Evelyn?” I said gently. “I do a lot of homework, and I can’t ride a bicycle when I’m doing homework. So if you don’t mind, we can share that bicycle.”
                What a joy to see the smile that spread across her face as she realized what I was telling her!
                “Oh, Sissy!”  she cried as she threw her arms around my waist. “You are always so nice to me!” The fact that I was not always nice to her did not bother me. All that mattered was how good I felt at that moment.
                As I returned her hug, I looked at my father, and he winked at me.  I knew that wink meant that he was proud of what I had done.  And that was an even better birthday present than the bicycle!


  1. Such a lovely memory Linda and a wonderful lesson in patience and kindness. Thanks for sharing.