An Extra Present by Sophie Leneveu

Jupiter, Florida

An Extra Present
by Sophie Leneveu

A Christmas memory of a gift and a lesson.

Your tenth birthday is one of the most important birthdays you will ever have. You’re in the double digits, never to return to the innocent years between zero and nine. But when I opened my eyes on that sunny December morning knowing that I was a bona-fide ten-year-old, leaving the single digits wasn’t what was on my mind. In my mind, the only thing that made turning ten a life-changing event was getting my first bike.

I called it my first bike, but technically my first bike was a silly little pink thing with a basket and tassels and sparkles. I refused to consider such a horror my first real bike, so I told myself that the bike I was getting for my tenth birthday was my proper, big girl bike. I’d picked it out a couple months ago. It was turquoise – my favorite color – and had a pretty sea-green sheen (but definitely NOT sparkles) where it caught the fluorescent Wal-Mart lighting. It didn’t have those stupid tassels hanging from its handles, and its tires were as white as the Christmas snow that never fell in Florida. It was my dream bike, and now it was finally going to be mine.

It was Christmas morning. As a Christmas baby, I always got cheated out of a second day of presents, but I knew that this year my new bike would compensate for that. I threw off the covers of my bed and quickly checked the window to see if it was snowing – of course it wasn’t – and hurried downstairs faster than I’d ever hurried downstairs before. My feet thumped down the steps one after another as I trailed one hand down the banister, and I reached the bottom in just a few seconds.

I was the first one up, as always. Before me stood our white artificial Christmas tree that I’d picked out myself a couple years ago. Now its plastic needles were starting to fall off, but I still loved it because it reminded me of the snow that fell when we lived in North Carolina – that kind of soft but steady snowfall that would cover the trees until there was no green left. Dozens of colorfully wrapped presents lay nestled beneath it, their brightness especially vivid compared to the white of the tree. My gaze swept over them and moved to the best present of all – my new bike, waiting patiently for me with a big silver bow stuck to one handle.

I immediately rushed over to it. It was even more perfect than I remembered; its handles and seat were the same pure white as the tires, and the brand name Schwinn was printed in capital white letters along its side. The turquoise metal with that sea-green sheen glittered as it caught the morning light from a nearby window. I crouched down beside it to study it closer. The brand name was printed at a slant, suggesting that the letters themselves were in swift movement. With the tip of my index finger I traced the first letter, S, the first letter of my own name. The metal was cool and perfectly smooth. I smiled.

Soon the rest of my family was awake. My parents gave me permission to ride my new bike around the neighborhood. With a huge smile and a quick thank you, I hurriedly got changed, strapped on my helmet, and wheeled the bike out the door without even bothering to take off the silver bow. As I walked my new bike down the driveway, my excitement grew. I knew my friends didn’t get anything as amazing as a bike this Christmas. They would be awed, maybe even jealous. I couldn’t help but feel a little proud as I thought of their compliments.

I mounted my bike and rode off towards a friend’s house. I’d only been living in this Florida town for a couple of years, but I already felt right at home; I knew most of the kids who lived nearby, and I could find my way around the neighborhood on my own. The morning air was cool and crisp, a few birds singing their own little carols, and a light breeze gently stirred my hair. But I was way too busy thinking about my new bike to care about those things.

As I approached the house, I started to hear chatter and laughter; all of the neighborhood kids must be playing outside. Shouldn’t most of them still be opening presents? Then, as my friend’s house came into view, I discovered that indeed almost every kid in the neighborhood was playing outside on the street…and every single one of them was riding a shiny new bike.

All I could do was stop and stare, open-mouthed, at what I was seeing. My friend approached me, beaming from ear to ear, riding a purple bike with Schwinn printed on its side in slanted capital white letters.

“Merry Christmas, Sophie!” she greeted me with a bright smile. “I love your bike. You like mine?”

I nodded vaguely, looking around at everyone’s bikes. They all looked fantastic, all just as nice and brand-new as mine. Several kids crowded around me to compliment my bike, but since they each had one of their own, the flattery didn’t feel as special as I thought it would. My friend caught on to my gloomy attitude.

“Why aren’t you excited?” she inquired, perplexed. “I dunno how it happened, but everyone got a bike this year. It’ll be great! We can all ride around together.”

I stared at her and then ducked my head, suddenly feeling ashamed. She was right. Since all of us had bikes, we could all share in the fun. Just riding my bike by myself all the time wouldn’t be any fun at all. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe I shouldn’t have been so prideful in something that was just an object; maybe I should’ve considered the feelings of the people around me instead.

A couple of my other friends came to meet us, and the four of us set off together for a few rounds around the neighborhood on our shiny new Christmas bikes. I felt the cool, crisp morning air on my face, heard the birds singing their own little carols, and smiled as a light breeze gently stirred my hair.