Poetry War: Point of View

 

schwinn bike

 

My sister’s old bicycle

lovingly refinished

by my mother’s patient hands

a gift born of poverty.

.

Practical to a parent,

pariah to a child,

a memorable Christmas

ends in unexpected ways.

1959-girls-traveler

Sleek, beautiful…that’s MY bike

Santa brought for Christmas!

“No,”  Mom said, “This bike is yours,”

pointing at the smaller one.

.

My sister squeals excitement.

I push the recycled bike

onto the concrete flooring.

My sister is loved.  I’m not.  

.

I wander out the front door

viewing the horizon.

Please God, let me escape to

anywhere but this city!

.

“You’re ungrateful and hateful,

obstinate, unruly!

Refinishing took hours,”

my mother cried in anguish.

.

“Santa brings her a new bike,

you gave me her old one!”

I yell out, wondering why

Santa is mad at me, too.

.

My sister smiled as she rode

what Santa denied me.

A happy family ignored

the child who wasn’t quite right.

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A child of 5, 6, 7 judges life by the litmus test of,  ‘is it fair, or is it not.’ 

Parents don’t have that luxury, instead worrying about how to buy food, pay for heat, keep gas in the car, and care for their children.

How do you give 2 children a new bicycle for Christmas when you hardly have enough to pay for food and housing?  That’s the dilemma my parents faced.  I’ve no doubt my mother believed the refinished bicycle would fool a child as young as I was at the time. 

When this Christmas happened, I wanted to run away to the farthest place from South Florida with a name I remembered:  Wildwood.   The feeling of being unloved colored my life gray for years after that.

As an adult with 2 children in their 30’s, I now understand how much love and effort was put into cleaning up my sister’s bike, refinishing it, painting it, and making it look like new.   But as a small child, all I understood was my sister’s excitement at getting a new bike, while I was stuck with her old bike.

How would I react today if someone presented me with a refinished Schwinn made in 1950?  I’d be ecstatic!   But the moral of this story isn’t how I’d act as an adult, but what a thoughtless gift it was for a child.

The lesson wasn’t lost on my mother.  After that Christmas, my sister and I received exactly the same presents every single year until she died.

Shortly after her passing 22 years ago, I relocated to a small town an hour north of Wildwood.  The irony of it is that the house I now live in was designed by my mother and built by my parents.