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A Birthday Bike in 1969

Adam Wogksch

I skillfully steered my bike with one hand while gripping my favorite caramel sucker called a “Sugar Daddy” in the other. Syrup from the caramel delight occasionally dripped onto my freshly washed white shorts. My long untamed sun-kissed hair draped my shoulders as my tanned toes gripped the pedals pushing one forward and then the other. I had turned seven years old a few months earlier and was returning from the neighborhood grocery store where I was spending my birthday money. The colorful plastic strips hanging from the handle bars of my brand new bike flew in the wind as I made my way back home.

It was so hot that month that if I wasn’t on my Schwinn kids' bicycle I was in the front yard running underneath a lawn sprinkler. After parking my ride with one precise swoop of the kickstand, I took my sugar stash inside and gathered some detergent, a container full of water and a brush. Eagerly I washed my brand new mode of personal transportation, a lovely violet Schwinn Fair Lady. What made her extra special was the white wicker basket decorated with colorful flowers that trimmed the edge which held my most treasured possessions: marbles, jacks, and a doll.

While I cleaned my bike, my father waxed his new black and gold ’69 Ford Torino. An 8-track blasted from the rolled down car windows. “Well take me back down to cool water flows, yeah…” The song was by a popular group called Creedence Clearwater Revival. Parked nearby was my mother’s candy apple Chevrolet Corvair, which was unique for the fact that it had the engine located in the back. Seatbelts weren’t found in the car because they weren’t mandatory.

The neighborhood consisted of ranch style homes and all the neighbors were very friendly and spent a lot of their time in the summer outside either barbecuing, walking, or tending to their flowers. Although it was the sixties and my parents were in their late twenties, I wouldn’t have considered them “hippies.” I guess I would use the term “yuppies,” if that term had been used at that time. They were up and coming young urban professionals. My father had a great job and wore the mandatory tie and perfectly starched white shirt which were washed and ironed by my mother. A pocket protector provided many pens for his day. Our new 1,200 square foot, $16,000 home was financed through the nice man my parents had purchased it from.

He made a visit to our home once a month and on that particular Saturday morning was the first time I had chatted with him. “Hello there. Nice day,” said Mr. Watson. My dad rushed to turn the music down. “Just a minute, I’ll be right back,” my dad said as he went inside the house.

“That’s a nice bike you got there young lady.”

“Thanks, I got it for my birthday.”

“Well, that’s a mighty fine present.”

“Here you go,” my dad said as he handed Mr. Watson the usual envelope.

“Thank you, got to go make my rounds. Enjoy your Saturday.”

“Thanks, you too.”

My mother and I usually didn’t go around when my father conducted business, but since I was already outside, I just kept on doing what I was doing. Most of the time, I played by myself because we had just recently moved into the new house and I hadn’t gotten to know the neighborhood kids yet, so I was pretty lonely except for my parents. “Would you like something to drink?” my mother tried to talk over the music. “Yes, I’ll take strawberry,” I said with a smile on my face. Kool-Aid was the summer drink at our house. I was not fond of the Tab sodas my mother sometimes drank. Iced-tea was the preferred drink at suppertime. During the summer, the neighborhood ice-cream truck supplied Fudgsicles and Orange Sherbet Push-Ups. I finished my drink and rinsed my bike with our green water hose.

After letting it dry in the sun, I rode my bike for a few hours while practicing skills of no hands riding, standing up on the seat after peddling really fast, and facing the other way while peddling backwards. Eventually I came in the house for supper. My parents had something they wanted to tell me. They announced that I was going to become a big sister. I placed a big smile on my face and with it I waited for my sibling’s arrival while many major influential happenings occurred: Vietnam War, a man walks on the moon and Woodstock.

In the fall, my baby brother made his way into the world. I slowly introduced him to candy, music and the fundamental skills associated with riding a bike.

The author of this piece, French Adams, is a Nature Blogger/Photographer. Although she holds a Journalism degree, Creative Writing is her passion. Growing up in a small town in the Bootheel of Missouri in the time of Peace, Love and Rock and Roll helped guide her love of music, bicycle riding and nature. She is a mother of two, substitute teacher and collector of: music albums, coffee mugs and children’s Golden Books. She is a member of N.E. Arkansas’s Writer’s Ink and each year enjoys attending a Hemingway-Pfeiffer Writing Retreat. Currently, she is working on two historical novels along with a fictional one. She enjoys writing inspirational poems.

This is a photo taken around 1975 of me and my brother. I am wearing a “Jaws” t-shirt and wearing black and white saddle oxfords.

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