Published December 24. 2010 4:00AM Updated December 24. 2010 5:46AM
It was December 1951. I was about to turn 13, and my brother had turned 15 the month before.
Our dad had been out of steady work for more than a year, having been laid off as a warehouseman for Reid & Hughes Store in Norwich.
Adding to this sad state of affairs was the fact that what little Dad was able to earn, through odd jobs etc., he also was supporting my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Ben, who lived on the second floor of our home. Uncle Ben had been out of work even longer than Dad and was very ill with chronic diabetes.
As Christmas drew near, Mom tried to break it to us gently that times were tough. We would be fortunate to receive even the perennial knitted sweater and mittens from one of the ladies that Mom had grown up with. As there was just no money for gifts, we were lucky to have food on the table.
Came Christmas morning, my brother Rick and I came out of our room expecting little but our sweaters, perhaps a homemade item crafted by our dad, and some small gifts from our much older brother Nelson and his wife Bev.
As we approached the Christmas tree that Dad and brother Nelson had cut from the woods behind our house, we noticed two pieces of Venetian blind cord, each one attached to a cardboard sign hung on the tree.
As we read the signs, we each stifled a yelp of delight and surprise at what was written there: "Dale, follow this cord." And "Rick, follow this cord." WOW, what was at the end of our cords?
Both cords led across the living room right to our parents' bedroom door, and we followed, barely able to breath, in anticipation of ... What? We didn't know.
My cord led to a newly painted orange 24" bicycle, and Rick's led to a newly painted green 26" bicycle. Neither was new, but Rick and I didn't care a whit. WE HAD BIKES!
And nothing would do but to take them out for the first of many, many happy rides.
It turned out that old friends of Mom and Dad had donated the two bikes, as their sons had outgrown them, and Dad and Older Brother Nelson had spent many cold evenings out in an unheated summer cottage that Nelson's father-in-law owned on Long Pond scraping, sanding and painting our bikes, as well as replacing worn or missing parts.
Rick and I couldn't have been happier. WE HAD BIKES!