The Public Eye

printed 12/24/2021

Good, bad or indifferent, Christmases can leave indelible memories, some of which are an unlikely source of inspiration.

Such was one Christmas morning in a different place and different time, when I found myself in a grumpy mood because I had to go out for something whose absence from the refrigerator might affect the course of civilization. Or so it seemed.

Naturally, it had something to do with relatives, their thirsty little offspring and, more specifically, their parents’ refusal to accept my argument that if a bottle’s label contains the words, “Eight Years Old” it means the contents may be consumed by anyone from that age on up.

I was just kidding, of course, but they failed to see the humor in my assertion that the “Eight Years Old” on a bottle of Old Peat-Digger is the same thing as the sign at the amusement park that says, “You must be 48 inches tall to ride.”

“Just go get them some Hawaiian Punch or something,” I was told.

So out I went on a cold and silent Christmas morning, driving the empty road into town looking for the elusive open store. It’s a mournful business when everyone else is at home making merry, opening presents, and watching the dogs tearing wrapping paper into confetti among other happy pursuits.

I was becoming more annoyed by the minute at having to venture out of the warm confines of home, where others were having a delightful time.

Eventually, I did secure the required beverage and was heading back to the home fires in a less-than-festive mood. And that’s when I spied it — the shiniest of new bicycles laid on its side in the front yard after having been taken out on its inaugural spin by its gloriously happy new owner.

Its silver fenders gleamed in the sun and sparkles bounced off the high polish of its chrome handle bars. Its spokes had yet to experience the first lick of dust or corrosion, and its reflectors were such a bright cherry red that this bicycle, the bicycle to top all bicycles, could have led Rudolph as he guided the other reindeer on their global flight.

As I took in this Christmas morning postcard, up walked the family’s St. Bernard, a lumbering brute of at least a half-ton, I’d say. He sniffed and poked and then christened this brand-spanking-new bike with everything he had, from fender to sprocket, seat to saddlebags. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we are talking total coverage.

To everyone’s surprise at my house, I walked in the door still wheezing and laughing.

“Merry Christmas, everyone!” I said breathlessly.

“What?” someone said. “You were kind of a grump when you left.”

“True enough,” I replied. “But then I realized how lucky I am — Yes, I was a little inconvenienced, but at least I wasn’t a bicycle.”

“We don’t get it,” said my puzzled audience.

“No, you wouldn’t. But Merry Christmas on you, from fender to sprocket.”

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