I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was in 5th grade at St. Michael’s Academy, an elementary school located a few blocks from downtown San Antonio. When the 3 o’clock bell rang, I would gather my books and head for town, where I’d walk from store to store, window-wishing, before dropping my nickel in the Nolan Street bus and head for home.
It was on one of those school day afternoons in late October that I saw it for the first time.
The department store at the corner of Alamo and Commerce Streets in Alamo Plaza had put up its Christmas displays. As I walked by, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, in the main window, was the most beautiful bicycle I’d ever seen.
I will never forget, standing in awe, admiring every detail of this bright and shiny ride. The body and fenders were jet black, against the rich red leather-like seat and matching rubber handle grips with plastic streamers, finished off with a bright white headlight. Painted across the chain guard were the words, “Custom Deluxe.”
It was stunning!
Price tag: $24.95 A lot of money back then.
All I could do was dream.
I visualized riding through the neighborhood as people on the sidewalk shouted out compliments when I proudly cruised by. I could feel my younger brother, Ricky, on the rear passenger seat, holding on tight with his little arms wrapped around my waist.
When I got home, I told my mom all about it. She listened and smiled. She knew exactly what I was about to ask and told me that it was something we just couldn’t afford right now. It was true. As she always would offer a bit of hope, no matter the situation, she said, “One day, son. One day.”
Week after week, I’d stop and gaze into the store window.
Then, on Christmas morning, there it was! I can still see it parked in front the refrigerator in our tiny kitchen.
I stood speechless, my mouth wide open. Was this a dream? Would I really ride this new chariot through the neighborhood, hearing all the compliments I’d imagined?
After hugging mom and dad and repeating “Thank you!” over and over, I turned to Ricky and showed him where he could ride along. He shook his head from side to side.
I later found out that the day after I had excitedly described the bike to my mother, she went downtown and placed it on layaway with a dollar.
My dream was her dream.
When you’re 10 years old, having a new bicycle is like the thrill of your first car.
And, for the parents who sacrificed to make it possible, the memory is priceless.