On Friday night I was talking with a couple friends about childhood memories. As usual, I couldn’t keep my mind from jumping from one memory to another and another. I had a wonderfully happy childhood, one that I can remember quite well. For some reason, though, I find that reminiscing about those days always leaves me feeling pretty melancholy. It’s always the heartbreaking memories that linger long after the conversation has ended.
I was six years old when I got my first bike, and it was a hand-me-down from one of my sisters. It had originally been a pink Strawberry Shortcake bicycle, but my father kindly spray painted it black for me.
A year later, my family was preparing to move away from Moselle, Mississippi, so we had a yard sale. Moselle was an incredibly small, rural town. A lot of families there, my own included, had very little money. I doubt my parents expected to make much money from the yard sale. The priority was probably to get rid of stuff to make the move easier. Still, we really needed money.
A woman showed up at the yard sale and was really interested in my little black bicycle. I think the price tag on it was for something like five dollars, but even that was too much for her. She really wanted to get the bike for her son, but she just couldn’t afford it. Five dollars. My mother gave her the bicycle as a gift. I imagine it wasn’t hard for her to understand the woman’s feelings. Of course, the woman was incredibly happy and grateful, and I like to imagine that her son was, too.
The story is as simple as that, but for some reason it just kills me. It’s hits me in a really vulnerable, sentimental place. The reality of sweet, loving mothers who can’t afford the gifts they want to give their children. The idea of one poverty-stricken mother making a sacrifice for another. The image of a little boy being so happy to get my old spray-painted hand-me-down bicycle. Being reminded of how hard my parents worked and suffered to get us out of poverty. Knowing that the money I’ve dropped on unnecessary snacks and iPhone apps could be making a huge difference in someone’s life had I used it more charitably. All of these things just kind of hit me at once subconsciously.