‘I know it’s not what you asked for but I hope you like it.’ Mum’s words echo in my head, I’m 12 today and I desperately try and hide my disappointment. ‘Great, thanks Mum, a bike is ace.’ It’s not ace really but I know I’m lucky to get a present at all this year now we’re on our own and Mum struggles with money for anything other than basics.
The bike stands against the shed trimmed up with ribbon and balloons that can’t hide the fact it’s second hand and looks like it’s out of the ark. It’s probably one of her ‘Freecycle’ finds and it’s not even a mountain bike but I suppose I shouldn’t moan, a bike will be useful, it’s just not an X-Box is it? ‘I thought you could pop over to Gran’s and show it off, she’ll be pleased to see you today. If you’re lucky she’ll have cake.’ I give her a hug and pretend I don’t see the tears waiting to fall. ‘I’ll see you later then,’ I say as I freewheel through the gate leaving a trail of ribbons on the path.
I ride through the park, dodging skateboarders and dogs hoping I don’t see any of my mates and head for the beach. The tide’s out so I cycle along the wet sand as far as Gran’s. As I ride down her path I can see her in the kitchen window, she waves and I lean it against her fence. She comes outside to admire the bike and I feign interest as she examines it from all angles like it’s precious or something.
‘Wow,’ she says eventually after she’s squeezed the tyres and stroked the saddle and I can’t stop myself thinking old people are weird. ‘That’s a snazzy bike, they used to use these for stunts when your dad was a kid, he had one just like it. I think they’re collectable now, I saw one on a tv show about vintage bikes.’ She’s smiling and I suddenly see the bike with different eyes. ‘Was Dad any good at stunts then?’ She laughs and says, ‘come inside I’ve got something to show you.’ ‘Help yourself to biscuits unless you’d rather have cake? Open that tin on the table and I’ll be back in a minute.’
Inside the tin is one of her fancy sponges with blue icing that says Happy Birthday Stevie. It has 12 candles and an iced stunt bike with silver sparkles and I realise she and Mum had planned this together. Gran comes back into the kitchen carrying a box I’ve not seen before and inside are photos of my dad smiling with his stunt-bike holding a silver cup. ‘This is the medal he won in a national competition in the 90’s,’ she says as she holds up a gold disc on a blue ribbon, ‘he was pretty good at it but I don’t think we appreciated how skilful he was then. He belonged to a club in town but not sure if they’re still going, it was a long time ago. You can have these now you’re a young man. Your dad would’ve liked that.’
The box has medals, trophies, some battered knee pads as well as posters, programmes and the silver cup he’s holding in the photograph. ‘I didn’t know,’ I said as I flip though some of the photo albums, ‘Mum never told me.’ ‘Well you know now and it’s something to be proud of. You might even find out more about it on the internet,’ she hands me a small parcel wrapped in brown paper, ‘this might help.’ It’s a smart phone, I can’t believe it. I already have an old mobile of Mum’s but it’s only for keeping in touch not for the internet. ‘Thanks Gran,’ it wasn’t a brand I’d heard of but it didn’t matter it was an actual smartphone and I hope I’d be able to afford to use it. ‘I know what you’re thinking but it’s got 12 months of data and calls included and me and your Mum think things will pick up soon now she’s had a bit of a promotion so you won’t need to worry about affording it. I’ve already put your mum’s number in so give her a call and tell her you’re having your tea here and there’s cake, see if she fancies joining us?’ ‘Hi Mum, guess what? I’m having tea at Gran’s and she says come over because there’s cake and if you’re lucky there might be fizz too.’ ‘I’ll be there soon,’ she says and I can almost see her smiling.
As we eat our cake and Gran and Mum toast my birthday in Prosecco I search for ‘Steve Harries BMX’ and there he is, the same photograph from Gran’s box and I share it on ‘Instagram’ #MyDad.
It’s turning into a great birthday.
©Nita Lewsey 2022