- Posted December 20, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Most memorable present ever
Tricycle Motor Christmas
There are many disadvantages to growing up in South Louisiana, but chief among them are a propensity to be in poverty, and a remarkable lack of birth control (thanks to an astoundingly strong Roman Catholic population, which eschews the practice). However, dull though my memory may be now, it seems to me that the former breeds the latter. In any case...
I am the youngest of six children; as proof of their religious adherence, or perhaps because they couldn't scrounge up the money for Ortho-Novum, my parents produced six children (all single births!) in nine years. By the time my mother was 28, she'd finally produced me. I'm not quite sure whether it was because she tired of being a brood mare, or because her uterus really was falling apart, but the moment I was out of my comfortable womb, the doctor took out the womb, too. I prefer to tell people that my parents figured out that after five wonderful births, they got me, and forthwith proceeded to shut down production before they made something even more peculiar.
My early childhood memories consist of a small, two-bedroom and one-bath home shared between eight people. Money was tight, although I recall that there was always enough food, and the house was constantly filled with kids, the occasional dog, Siamese cats, and the smells of stale tobacco smoke and onion gravies. I don't remember us having many toys, and I must be the only thirty-something American woman in existence who has never owned a Barbie doll. We would occasionally walk to our neighbor's house, which was a quarter of a mile away, and I remember staring enviously at the mounds of toys that the family's only daughter regarded with apparent boredom. But regardless of the stark poverty, there was love aplenty in our home. Because I was the last one, the "caboose" as my father often said, I was spoiled by my parents and my siblings. It was a simple, quiet and quaint existence.
In the many Christmases I have celebrated, only one stands out as the best. I must have been all of two or three years old, which makes the clarity of the memory particularly astounding.
I must have prattled much about having either a wagon or a tricycle. Perhaps I spent much time on one at the neighbor's home, or squealed every time one was advertised on the black-and-white TV. I remember only that it was a desire held dear.
That Christmas morning, my parents woke us up and we, rubbing the sleep out of our eyes, tumbled into the living room. Even today, I remember the little yarn dolls, the multi-colored glass bulbs, the bubbling lights and congealed blogs of tinsel threads which clotted the branches of the real Christmas tree. I remember the few presents which were tucked neatly underneath the shedding branches. But more than that, I remember the small tricycle which sat, with only a little red bow betwixt its handlebars, as though it were just hanging around, patiently waiting for my little body to provide the energy and the motion to make it come alive.
I was wearing only a pair of red underwear that morning, and it was probably cold outside, but I don't remember the weather. What I do remember is the thrill of taking the little tricycle up walkway and, with hammering heart, I pedalled it like mad towards the bottom of the little hill on which our home sat. I really felt like I was flying! What a simple joy, to be thrilled with just one little gift! And only one gift for me it was, indeed. The tricycle was the most expensive gift my parents gave that year.
There was something both magical and liberating about that little collection of metal and rubber wheels. I've heard my grandparents speak of me riding it all the time, and I distinctly recall chasing one of the many cats with it through the house. I'm sure I earned a few scars in my adventures with it, but my memory is hazy on the details. All I know is that, when I open a gift every year, a thrill (what the Cajuns call a "frison") tap-dances along my nervous system, and I feel a vestige of that long-ago joy that blew me away on that winter morning. Trauma can be felt for many years afterwards, but so can joy. Christmas isn't just about the gifts, but about the wonder and love of Christ. I really think that, because of that gift in my early childhood, I always try to make my own children feel as special, as loved, as completely and simply fulfilled as I was that day.
Time has moved on. My siblings and I are through producing children, and my parents' grandchildren are starting to get married and have children of their own. I don't remember what happened to that little tricycle, although I suspect it fell victim to one of my older brother's ongoing schemes to build the ultimate wheeled platform on which to soar down the steeper hills on our grandparents' property. But that's another story for another assignment...Preferably one which deals with childhood trauma and tourniquets.