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Last Updated: Jan 10th, 2011 - 11:11:15


Happy Holidays
By Martha Randolph Carr
Dec 21, 2008, 17:54 PST

The winter of 1966 in Philadelphia I was a seven year old kid anxiously waiting for Christmas and the hope of my first bike.

Snow came down all winter and was waist deep in some places. The air stayed so cold, even in fully lined snowsuits we always froze until we were numb and then couldn't feel anything. Going outside to make snow angels or build a snowman was preparing for something equal parts torturous and wonderful. Only the very tips of our fingers and toes still ached after the first half hour, and as long as no snow managed to roll up a sleeve or down into a boot, we were okay. Nobody was going in unless they were sure they weren't coming back out.

On Saturday mornings starting in November, my brother Jeff and I were up extra early waiting for the cartoons to start at 7 a.m. sharp. Sometimes Dad watched with us and as usual made us be quiet when the cartoons were playing. We made him be quiet when the commercials started.

My brother and I both dearly wanted our own bikes from Santa. I had been borrowing Marcia Daft's whenever Mrs. Daft would let me and Marcia was out. It was too tall for me and I had to stand on a curb or a stoop to be able to get on but it only added to my thrill. I was terrible at braking though and too terrified on the big bike to try, opting instead to throw myself into a yard and let the bike take care of itself. Marcia complained occasionally about that part but Mrs. Daft kept letting me ride.

Christmas Eve snow had started to fall again as we finally drifted off to sleep and when I woke up it was dark outside. I had made a point to leave the good flashlight by my bed and wind and set my clock. It was three in the morning, good enough. I woke up my little brother.

We crept down the hallway, not using the flashlight just yet, waiting till we got closer to the fancy living room and the haul. At the last second we couldn't get it to work and I went in, too anxious to wait for Jeff to shake it into action.


"We got our bikes," I whispered, waiting for the echoes of two bikes falling to fade away. We were so happy we laughed anyway.

I didn't move. I wasn't sure exactly where anything was and what might cause more noise and waited for my brother to shine the light.

At last, a beam showed one large girl's purple bike and a smaller boy's gold bike, both Schwinn's, the good kind. We were so lucky and we knew it. We couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces.

Jeff helped me stand the bikes back up and we crept back to our beds, not even noticing what else might be there. We got bikes. We were willing to wait for daylight when we were officially allowed to get up. We lay still in our beds, not even whispering and drifted off to sleep for another hour, the smiles still on our faces.

Later, after the new Matchbox cars and the handmade Barbie clothes my mother said Santa's helpers must have made we took the bikes out for a test run.

"There's snow everywhere," Dad called after us. "Where are you going to ride them?"

"We'll find a place," I said, determined to feel this new baby ride. Jeff nodded his head and didn't even look back, dragging his new gold chariot over the doorjamb.

"Come back before turkey," Dad said, chuckling.

We had to push and lift the bikes most of the way but occasionally we found bare spots that gave us just a few moments of riding pleasure and we savored every bit of it. Happy holidays everyone. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Martha will be appearing at the United Way in Canton, Ohio on January 27th. Open to the public. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: or visit

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