This photo was taken on Christmas Eve 1966. I was only 6-1/2 years old at the time, but I remember it very well. My brother Don who was 14 years older than I was had just returned home from college for the holidays. To add to the excitement, this was going to be our first Christmas in the new house that we had moved into earlier that spring. The house was built by my father John who was a carpenter, and he also built hundreds of other houses in my hometown of Lincoln, MO.
About a week before Christmas in 1966, I woke up in the middle of the night and decided I was thirsty. So I quietly crawled out of bed and went to the kitchen to get a glass of milk. That was when I saw my mother Neoma in the corner of the kitchen wrapping a HUGE cardboard box with Christmas paper! That box had to have been at least 6 feet long and 3 feet high! I just knew that this was going to be the bicycle I wanted for Christmas, and I got so excited that I completely forgot about wanting something to drink!
I then sneaked back to my bedroom before anybody realized I was up, and spent the rest of the night dreaming about the new bicycle that I just knew I was going to get for Christmas!
We always had a tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve after the the children’s program at church. Before we left for church, my brother Don would always drive me around town in his 1957 Chevy to see the Christmas lights. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was to give my parents a chance to put all of the presents underneath the Christmas tree without me finding out about it! And then it would look to me like Santa had been there while we were at church!
I’m sure that I was so excited all through the children’s Christmas program that I probably forgot the lines I had spent weeks memorizing, as well as all the words to the songs we were going to sing! The church service probably only lasted about an hour, but to me it seemed like an eternity! I couldn’t wait to get back home because we were finally going to get to open our Christmas presents, including that giant box!
My mother Neoma would always hand out all of the presents underneath the Christmas tree. All of the family was there including both of my grandmothers and my two great aunts. I think my mother saved the giant box for last on purpose just to make everybody wait! Much to my disappointment, shock, and horror however, the box was not for me, but for my older brother Don instead!
It was all I could do to hold back the tears, and my brother could tell how upset I was. So he
asked me to help him unwrap the giant box that was covered in at least 3 or 4 rolls of colorful wrapping paper. As we tore the paper off of the box, everyone in the room was anxiously waiting to see what on earth could possibly be in such a big box! Much to everyone’s surprise, it was two brand new tires for my brother’s 1957 Chevy! My brother was absolutely thrilled, and everyone in the room was equally excited for him! Everyone except for me that is. That box was supposed to contain the brand new bicycle that I wanted so badly!
In my mind this was the worst Christmas I had ever had, and no matter how much everyone tried to cheer me up, nothing was going to change the fact that my brother’s present was inside that box instead of mine! I know I got lots of presents and lots of toys that Christmas, but it seemed like all that mattered to me was that I was supposed to be the one to get that giant Christmas present!
Later that night after everyone else had gone home, my mother dressed me in my pajamas and told me that I could stay up late to play with my new toys. My brother Don could not stop thinking about how upset and disappointed I was, so he finally came up with an idea!
My mother Neoma loved to take photos, and we’ve got hundred of photos that she took of our family through the years. So my brother asked her if she would take a picture of me and him together with his new tires! He got the great idea that we should both stick our heads out through the middle of the tires, and as you can see by the look on my face in the photo, this was the most fun I had that entire Christmas Eve night!
And now every time I look at this photo, I realize that this was not the worst Christmas of my life, but the absolute best one and the most memorable! This will always be my favorite photo that my mother ever took! It is now framed and hanging in my home where I can see it every day and think about the wonderful childhood I had growing up with the best brother in the whole wide world!
Oh, and by the way, I got a bicycle for my birthday the following July!!!