By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
It's funny how the sight of something can bring back a flood of memories and emotions all in a flash of two or three seconds. At least that's how my mind works.
The other day, as I was walking up to the front office at the Chronicle, I saw two brand new, shiny bicycles parked at the Christmas tree.
One was a boy's bike and one a girl's. The sight instantly made me tear up.
This year the Chronicle has an Angel Christmas Tree for the Foster Adoptive Parent Association children. A foster child's first name is written on an angel along with pertinent information, such as age, clothing size, favorite color, and a small list of what the child would like for Christmas.
People can come in, pick an angel or angels off the tree, get the gifts and bring them back to the Chronicle with the angel attached before Dec. 20. The Foster Parent Association then picks up the gifts and distributes them to the families.
I knew we had the tree up there and the cause, but it didn't really sink in until I walked up there the other day and saw those shining, brand new bicycles sitting there for a nine-year-old boy and eight year-old girl.
How sweet and generous of these people who are able to afford to purchase something like this for a child in need.
When I saw those bicycles my mind also instantly flashed back to my own childhood and how special the Christmas of 1973 was for me when I was a nine-year-old boy and I received my Schwinn Sting-Ray five-speed.
It was something I had begged for, but my father always responded with, "I'm sorry, we just can't afford to buy that right now."
That bicycle meant the world to me and was my most prized possession, other than my dog, of course.
Prior to that bicycle, I had never had a new bike. When I was a kid, I would often see old bicycles tossed to the curb, thrown away on garbage day, as I walked to and from school. The only bike I had was an old hand-me-down, used rusty bike.
I decided to take one of the bikes I saw in the garbage, bring it home and use the parts from it to fix up my old clunker. I did this two or three times and I eventually combined the bikes into one good bike and a couple of not-so-good-looking bikes. I then sold the not-so-good-looking bikes.
It's hard to imagine an eight-year-old child thinking like this, but that's exactly what I did. Apparently, after discovering the massive pile of bicycle parts in the garage, my dad asked me what I was doing. When I told him and showed him the bike, it inspired him to find a way to get me the ultimate kid bicycle of the time — the Schwinn Sting-Ray Fastback five-speed.
By the freak stroke of good luck, Christmas Day was in the 60s — almost unheard of for the Chicago area in December — and I was able to ride my new five-speed all day long. To this day I can't describe how special that day was to me and how much it made me respect my father for working extra hours to get that bike for me. It wasn't just a material thing. It was the love my parents showed me.
As it turned out, it was one of the last Christmases my parents were married.
Seeing those brand new bikes the other day made me think just how much they might mean to those foster kids. Many of these kids are often removed immediately from their homes without any warning and are forced to leave every single thing they have behind.
Many times they are going to live in better circumstances, but it is still a traumatic time for them. I know that material things certainly can't replace the love, safety and security of good parents and home, but it is something that might help them feel special.
As of Thursday there were 10 angels left on the Christmas Angel Tree at the Chronicle. That's 10 opportunities for someone to help make a foster child's Christmas a bit brighter.
May God bless all of those who are so giving and those who volunteer during the whole year. We are truly blessed in this community with some of the most generous, caring and volunteering people I've ever seen.
The generosity of some people is inspiring. These folks, and the parents who take in the foster children and offer them unconditional love and home, are true angels.
Not only did seeing those bikes make me think of the foster children, but it made me realize just how blessed I am and thankful for my family and friends and the love we share for one and other.
May God bless you all with a wonderful holiday and Christmas season.
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Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.