A Christmas Memory I will Never Forget – John Gilbert

Christmas Memory

A Christmas Memory

by John Gilbert,  contributing essayist Columbus Georgia Online

COLUMBUS, GA — Stan Lipsey was cool.  He lived a short distance from me and would often ride his bike to my house.  At this writing, I couldn’t tell you what Stan looked like but I remember his dark green bike.  He was my best friend in the 3rd grade and he’d let me ride his bike.  Well, I couldn’t ride it but I’d give it a good try.  There was a large dirt parking lot in front of our house and I’d start the bike rolling and jump on the seat.  The next instant I was sprawled out in the dirt.  I’d jump back up and give it another try with the same result.  Time after time I’d bite the dust but I was undeterred.  If Stan could ride it, I felt sure I could ride it too.

The Set Up

One day Stan rode over to my house and the first thing I wanted to do was play ‘plant my face in the dirt.’  There had to be some trick to this bicycle thing but I just couldn’t figure it out.  I mean, who could ride on two wheels?  People did it every day but how?  I’d give it one more try before we went to play.  I got to the top of the gentle slope of the parking lot, ran and jumped on the seat.  This time something different happened.  With the handlebars gyrating wildly from right to left, I peddled across the lot before falling into the soft sand.  I was wild with excitement!   “I did it!  I did it!  Did you see me?  I rode the bicycle!”  I tried riding the bike several more times and with each ride, I went a little farther before falling.  I’m sure Stan wanted to do something else but I was thrilled with my achievement.  I ran to the house to get my mother.  She had to see this.  Before Stan left I was riding in wobbly circles around the lot and learning how to use the brake.

You know what comes next.  I wanted a bicycle.  I had to have a bicycle!  How could my life continue without a bicycle?  “Bikes are expensive,” I was told.  “Maybe we’d ask Santa,” my mother said.  I never knew why one would discuss the expense of an item when all one had to do was to ask Santa.  But Christmas was light-years away and I wanted a bike now.  These were the days before we overindulged kids and my “now” didn’t set too well with my mother.  I’d have to be patient.  I hated that word!  Besides we were about to leave our Columbus, Georgia home.  Daddy was being transferred to the Strand Theater in Athens, Tennessee.   Daddy would move up in May and we’d follow when school was out.

We made the move to the sleepy little town of Athens.  I made new friends all of whom seemed to have bicycles.  Athens was small.  Everything seemed to be within walking distance.  It only took a few minutes to walk to the theater, my new school, church, or wherever I needed to go.  I still wanted a bike, though.  One day daddy took me to the Western Auto just around from the theater.  While he was making a purchase, I perused the display of ‘New Bikes For Christmas’ on the showroom floor. It was then that  I saw it.  A beautiful blue bike.  Blue and white to be exact.  It was beautiful! It even had a headlight and a buddy seat!  This bike had been built for me.  I just knew it.  Daddy noticed me admiring the bike.  “You like that one?” he asked.  I’m sure I answered him but I was fixated on the bike.  We left the store but in my mind’s eye, I could see myself riding that bike with the handlebar streamers blowing in the wind.

Now about my Christmas memory

SNOW IN COLUMBUS, GA  — Soon summer was over and school started.  I lived for Christmas holidays.  We’d be out of school for two weeks and that was fine with me.  The town square was decorated with all the Christmas trimmings and to this day  I envision Athens when I hear the song, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”  On Christmas Eve it snowed.  I’d never seen snow and this was excitement in itself.  Of course, the first thing we did was build a snowman.  That night it rained and then froze.  Our snow was now a sheet of ice.

christmas memory
I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had to touch it to make sure it was real.

Christmas Morning finally Arrived — My sisters and I were up early Christmas morning.  We crept into the living room to see what Santa had brought.  There was an assortment of toys but no bicycle.  Still, I enjoyed my gifts and played with them until we woke my parents.  I still remember this happy scene.  Mama and daddy on the sofa and the four of us kids playing on the floor in front of the tree.  Then we unwrapped packages.  As usual, I got underwear as one gift.  I must have gone through a lot of underwear because I was always getting it for Christmas and birthdays.  “Is anyone cold?” my father asked.  We were too busy to be bothered with cold.  “I’m a little cool,” my mother replied.  “Johnny, go to the bedroom and get your mother’s sweater,” my dad asked.  I did as he asked.  I opened the door and there it was.  The beautiful blue and white Western Auto bicycle.  I squealed with excitement!  I reached out and touched it.  It was real alright.  Carefully I rolled it into the living room.  “A bicycle!” my sisters said in unison.  “I guess there wasn’t room for it under the tree so Santa put it in our room,” daddy said.  There were other comments but I was oblivious to them.  My eyes were filled with blue wonder.  I do remember that my mother told me to take care of it because if I tore the bike up, I wasn’t getting another one.  Suddenly I realized that I had to ride it.  I ran and got dressed.  “It’s icy outside,” my parents warned.  It didn’t matter.  I had to ride the bike.  My bike!  I rolled it into the front yard and gave it a push.  I hopped on but there was no controlling it.  I went down the hill towards the back yard sliding on the ice and ran into the neighbor’s house.  I slid off the seat and hit the crossbar.  Oh, the pain!  In a few moments, I picked the bike up and hobbled back to the house.  I’d have to wait till the ice and snow melted before I could ride.

And ride I did.  I had that bike till I started driving  It would be interesting to know how many miles I put on it.  After eight months in Athens, we moved back to Columbus.  There were few places in that city that my bike and I didn’t go.  By the time I retired that bike, it was little more than a frame with a worn out seat.  I would own a couple of more bikes in my later years.  They were 10-speeds and didn’t last long.  None of those later bikes could ever hold a candle to my reliable old Western Auto bike I received on that happy Christmas. This is a Christmas memory I have never forgotten and will never ever forget.


by John Gilbert,  contributing essayist Columbus Georgia Online

*editoe note: Care to share a Christmas memory, we’d love to read it and maybe publish it. Simply write it and past into your email, send it to Mike[at]ColumbusGaOnline.com, Sending it is giving permission to share it online. Thank you,

About John Gilbert 46 Articles
John Gilbert is a terrific story teller and "Save The Bradley" is historic, funny and entertaining! John's special talent is to awaken the child in us all, this is why the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckle Berry Finn were so popular. John's easy style, descriptive details, humor and just plain nice guy attitude makes John, without question, our modern day Mark Twain. Read one of John's stories and see if you agree?
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