Freddy's Bike--A Christmas Memory

Each year as people speak of their favorite Christmas memories, my mind goes back to a Christmas in the late 1980s when our children were young and our budget tight. About two miles from our home and down a gravel country road, sitting beside our potato cellar were two trailers which housed our workers during the summer. That fall my husband, Ron, was approached by two families who wanted to rent those trailers to live in for the winter. Ron hesitated. The trailers were not normally occupied during the winter, and he wasn’t sure how well the furnaces worked or if they were insulated well enough to provide adequate shelter during our difficult winters. But the two families, who both had just recently come to the area, were so desperate that Ron finally agreed.

Because of his concerns, Ron stopped in at the trailers several times a week to make sure the furnaces were working and all was well. On one of these visits near the beginning of December, ten year-old Freddy came to the door with his mother. As adults often do at that time of the year, Ron asked Freddy what he was hoping Santa Claus would bring him. 
Freddy’s face it up, and he replied, “A bike.”
Freddy’s mother bent her head slightly toward her son and whispered quietly in Spanish not wanting Ron to hear. But Ron, who speaks Spanish, did hear and understood. Her words were the Spanish equivalent of “Don’t count on it.”
When Ron came home he told me about the incident. I thought of Freddy riding the bus to school every day and seeing the other boys on their bicycles. I thought of what a bike would mean to a boy trying to fit in. I wanted to get Freddy a bike. But as Ron and I discussed it, the reality of the situation hit us. Between the two families there were nine children, and we were certain that none of them would be getting anything from Santa Claus that year. We could possibly buy gifts for one or two of the children, but nine… We had our own young children to provide Christmas for, and our budget wasn’t exactly ample.
And so we gave up the idea of buying Freddy a bike. But not really. Freddy stayed on our minds, and we stewed over the situation.
Then about a week later we were out with several other couples. During the conversation, Ron brought up Freddy and the families living in the trailers. 
“We’ll help,” one of the women said, and the others agreed. 
It was suggested that each couple take one child to provide Christmas for. That took care of four of the children.
“I’m sure we could find other people to take the rest,” the woman said. 
And so it began.
I made a few phone calls to other friends to see if they were interested in helping with our project, but I only had to make a few. Word of the families in the trailers spread, and people began calling me. Within days, each of the children was assigned to families who would buy gifts for them. But the calls didn’t stop. So I assigned people to buy gifts for the parents. And still the calls continued. A club at the local High School offered to fill Christmas stockings for each of the children. Others agreed to provide food boxes.
Ron and I kept Freddy for ourselves. We didn’t have to shop long to realize that a new bicycle was out of our budget. So we began searching second hand stores. To our dismay, all the used bikes we found were in poor condition. Becoming discouraged, we started to think that maybe Freddy would have to settle for something else from Santa.
Our expectations were low when we entered the last bike shop. We didn’t think we would find anything better there than we had at any of the other stores, but we felt obligated to at least try. We asked the clerk if they had any used bicycles, and he directed us to the back. There, as if just waiting for us, was a beautiful red and yellow bike. It was the right size and in near new condition. In fact, it was in such good condition that I asked the clerk if it really was used and if it really was selling for the used bike price. He assured me that it was on both counts, and we knew we’d found Freddy’s bike.
The week before Christmas, packages began arriving at my house. I watched in awe as the piles of gifts lining my dining room grew and grew. Surveying them, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and love as I thought of the many wonderful people who had given so much to make certain that two families they didn’t even know would have Christmas.
Ron arranged to have a friend, who was large and had a deep booming voice, dress up as Santa to help deliver the gifts on Christmas Eve. Afterwards Ron told me of the wide eyed children who watched in awe as Santa Claus pulled package after package out of a bag and called them by name. The children would, almost reverently, take the gifts from Santa, then carefully place them under their meager Christmas tree to be opened in the morning. But Ron said the most touching part was watching the faces of the mothers, who stood with tears sparkling in their eyes.
“Gracias, gracias,” they repeated over and over. “Thank you, Thank you. God bless you.”
I have had many opportunities since then to participate in Christmas giving, often to people whose circumstances were every bit as dire as those of these two families. Still, this experience stands out. Why? I believe it is because that year I so vividly witnessed the kindness and generosity of the people who gave—people I have the privilege of living among.
For me, a wonderful postscript to this story came the next spring. As I drove down the country road where the trailers were located, I would often see a red and yellow bicycle. It was never being ridden by just one child. Always there were at least two, sometimes three children on it. One would be on the handle bars, one sitting on the seat, and another standing on the pedals. It might not have been the safest way to ride, but I have never seen a bike that was as loved or as enjoyed as was Freddy’s bike.
And I have never given a gift that brought me more joy.

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