You know how I feel about you, right? We argue from time to time, and there are days when you just want to punch me in the snout and throw me into the Androscoggin — but you know I love you, right?
I do. And that’s why I’m hoping with all of my heart that this year, you’ll get a bicycle for Christmas. And I’m talking a real bike here; not the Wii version where you sit on the couch, pretending to pedal while your family laughs hysterically and shoots video in hopes that you’ll suffer a groin injury so they can send the clip in to one of those shows.
I’m not talking about a stationary bike, either — because the world “stationary” and “bike” don’t belong in the same sentence. I’m certainly not talking about one of those newfangled bikes with motors that buzz with the same intensity and at the same pitch as a mosquito — if said mosquito happened to be the size of a barn.
I’m talking about a regular old bike, in case you haven’t put that together — a bike with streamers hanging from the handlebars and an old baseball card (the ’75 Sal Bando makes extra good noise, for some reason) in the spokes.
I’m talking about a bike with a bell and a horn and a banana seat. A bike with a cross bar if you’re a boy, no cross bar if you’re a girl. Which always seemed bass ackwards to me because that bar won’t hurt a girl very much, but it’ll completely ruin a boy’s day if he lands just right on it.
You know what I’m saying. I know you do because you just crossed your legs.
I want you to find a bicycle under your tree tomorrow, even if you happen to be a 95-year-old woman who plans to nap until Valentine’s Day. Even if you’re a 350-pound fellow who would crush that bike into dust if he dared to sit on it.
Even if you’re presently in prison serving five to 10. Even if you already have nine cars, three motorcycles, two Jet Skis and a jet pack.
I want you to have that bicycle, my cherished friend, because there is nothing like a bicycle on Christmas morning. No single item serves as such a grand avatar of all things good as a two-wheeled miracle hiding behind the tinsel. Only a bicycle can provide such a vivid and immediate link between bland adulthood and the magic of youth. If you awoke on Christmas morning and found a bike under the tree, you could forget that your parents were divorced, that your clothes were handed down hand-me-downs and that a schoolyard bully named Nelson liked to beat the snot out of you every Tuesday during recess and thrice on Wednesday.
For a kid on Christmas morning, the bike is the jewel that out-gleams all others, even more glorious than the blinking electronics and hyper-reality video games that magically tether a lad to the couch for 16 hours a day.
The bike is a time machine, a mighty steed, a rocket ship blasting you to the stars.
And I want you to have one, by gum, because the mere sight of it will carry you back to that perfect Christmas when you were 6 years old and all seemed right with the world. I want you to return — however briefly — to that time before job interviews and mortgage payments; before bum knees, bad hips and prostate exams.
I want you to have the best Christmas of your life one more time.
And if such a miracle should occur, sit on that bike and at least pretend to ride, would you? Honk the horn if you want, and absolutely be sure to ring the bell, because you know what they say about that: Every time a bell rings, some poor dude racks himself on his bicycle crossbar while the rest of us just laugh and laugh.
And with that image, I leave you. Merry Christmas, people. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good bike.
Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer whose parents refused to get him a bike for Christmas, claiming he’d shoot his eye out. If you have a better excuse, send it to [email protected]