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My Most Embarrassing Christmas

Some of the most poignant memories we have revolve around the holidays. Sometimes those memories are happy ones, but there are also memories that evoke sad feelings and there are those that become foundational in your philosophy of life. I want to share one of those philosophical memories with you.

Ike as a young boy

Ike as a young boy

In the month of April in my 11th year of life I fell in love for the very first time. The unusual part is that I did not fall in love with a girl, instead I fell in love with a Schwinn “tiger” bicycle from Sunshine’s Department store on Marietta Street in Atlanta. I looked at the price tag and flipped it over and called my mother over to see my discovery. My mother flipped the price tag over, took one look, laughed and said, “Ikey, there is no way that your dad can afford a bicycle that costs this much!” I was a very persistent child who would not take “no” lying down. For the next nine months I was relentless in sharing my desire for the bike every chance I got. I even offered the proposition that they could combine my birthday present with my Christmas present. My motives were not that altruistic since my birthday fell on December 12th. Anyone with a birthday near Christmas knows that you get ripped off by people who insist that they bought you a bigger and better present by combining gifts. I still need therapy for dealing with that theory!

Our family always exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve, so when Christmas Eve finally arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement. I announced to the family that I was going to go outside and play football so that they could arrange my ‘gift’ under the tree. When I returned, I was stunned that I didn’t see anything that remotely resembled a bicycle. We opened our gifts and with each gift I opened, my anger seeped closer to the surface. How could my family have not gotten the clue? How could they NOT have known what I really wanted? At this moment, I knew I must be adopted because I refused to believe I was genetically connected to my parents in any way!

After opening presents we always had Christmas dinner. We were about to eat and my mother asked me to go across the street to Mrs. Miller’s house to pick up a cake she had baked for our family. Even today as I recall my reply, I amazed how my anger blinded me to the extent that I had my first near-death experience as I told my mother, “If you want the cake so bad, why don’t you just go get it yourself?” My normally quiet-spoken father immediately and firmly instructed me to “Get across the street!” I stomped across the street and yanked open the screen door to Mrs. Miller’s porch to bang on her door. She flipped on the porch light and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the object of my desire. My first thought…”Isn’t it just my luck…old Mrs. Miller got the bicycle I wanted and there was no way she can even get her big fat rear-end on the bicycle!” I was devastated. Just then, I heard my family shouting from our driveway across the street, “How do you like it, Ikey?”

Three things happened that Christmas Eve that I will never forget.

1) I could not answer my family’s question because my throat was tight with buyers’ remorse.

2) I felt tears on my cheeks, but I never felt them puddle up in my eyes.

3) I determined in one brilliant searing moment that I wanted for the rest of life to be a giver and not taker.

I knew I never wanted to feel that way again and determined in my 12 year old heart that I would, from this point forward, find my joy in giving rather than in receiving. My life and my philosophy completely changed that rainy Christmas Eve.

Late on Christmas Eve a few years back all of our family was gathered and we had just finished cleaning the dishes when there was a loud knock on our door. I said out loud, “Who in the world would be out this late on Christmas Eve?” My wife, Robin, replied “You better go and see.” When I flipped on the light and opened the door, I stood there in shock looking at a fully restored 1962 Schwinn Tiger bicycle with a huge red bow. My wife searched high and low on Ebay and had found the bicycle that was my first love.

1962 Schwinn Tiger

1962 Schwinn Tiger

The bicycle now sits proudly in my office and wouldn’t you know, now I can’t fit my big rear-end on the bicycle any better than Mrs. Miller could have all those years ago!

Have a wonderful and very blessed Christmas!

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