paying it forward... getting it back...

as Christmas approached we went through the standard routine in our house
we bought a tree
we hung lights
an assortment of nut crackers were put on displayed and played with
the Lionel train was set up so that the boys could play with their Christmas Train

one afternoon I was over at a neighbor's house grabbing my younger son who was playing with the neighbor's older son of the same age
when I got there the boys were gathered at the base of their Christmas tree
guess what they were doing... yep... you guessed it... they were playing with that families version of a Christmas Train... only their train is a TYCO HO scale train instead of a Lionel train like the one we have

I admired their train as it did its loops beneath a well decorated tree
then it occurred to me... I have a number of old HO scale engines and cars from my youth
so... without grabbing my son I rushed home and went down to the basement
to my surprise I was able to locate the shoe box from some very large shoes that now housed the said Tyco engines and Tyco cars

like a proud Labrador with a mallard in its mouth I returned with the shoe box in hand
then there was hesitation
it may not have been visible... but I felt it
before handing the box over I opened it
like opening the briefcase in Pulp Fiction magic filled the room as its contents were revealed

an onslaught of memories came my way as I looked at each engine and then each car

before handing over the box filled with an interesting assortment of trains I took one last look
a strange feeling entered my stomach
the feeling grew stronger as did my hesitation
finally... I broke the possessiveness and I passed the box off to my neighbor

it felt good... there was a strange hint of anxiety
yet it still felt good... it was like a release of some excess baggage
baggage that I did not even know that I was carrying
then my younger son saw the assortment of engines and the wide variety of cars
I stayed strong as Grant uttered one word... "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad?!?!?!?!"

"no... we do not need them... we do not want them...
we were not even using them... we do not have enough track or even a transformer to use them...
isn't better for them to have them so that they are used
rather than to just have them rot in our basement"

young Grant agreed
the words were true... but there was still some hesitation

we tried a few of the engines
the small transformer was not able to power more than two of the six engines
and even those engines were powered at half speed
in the box was a small tube of lubricant
I passed this off as well... thinking that this may revive the trains

maybe it was not such a great gift
a nice gesture... but maybe not such a great score

but then... sure enough... on Christmas Eve I saw my neighbor through the window
I thought that I had caught him in the act of playing Santa Claus
thinking that this was fun... I went and knocked on his door
I had just put my kids to bed and his kids had long been asleep
no... he was not filling stockings or putting wrapped presents under the tree... no... he was up by himself playing with the trains... my old trains... my old engine was pulling some of my old cars under his tree
or should I say... his new engine was pulling some of his new cars under his tree
sure enough... a little lube in the right places was all that these engines needed
these toys of my childhood had been given a second life

I had not paired this event with a separate unrelated event
but days prior I had been at a holiday party at a neighbor's house
on this evening I was talking bikes with another guest at the party
during our conversation this man was telling of this dream bike he had received from his brother
apparently his brother had bought himself an ultra elite racing machine and had given this man his old bike... a bike that was pretty special itself
having scored this wonderful bike from his brother he made mention that his old bike was no longer needed

without knowledge of the size or quality of the bike I said... "do you want to sell your old bike? I will give you a hundred bucks for it"
to my surprise... this man said sure
knowing that people often think that their bikes are nicer than they are we did not discuss specifics
we talked about it... but I was not so concerned with details
I gathered it was a road bike with aluminum frame... then I learned it had a carbon fork and STI shifter... I was excited... it sounded promising... even if it was just a beater... it would be a good score

at the end of the evening... I gave him my number and he said he would give me a call and drop the bike off the next day
sure enough... the next day... Christmas Eve I get a call... a call I was starting to doubt was going to come... it was Dave... Dave asked if I was available for him to drop off this bike
I was at home cooking Christmas Eve dinner while my family was with my mother at Christmas Mass

when Dave arrived I was pleasantly surprised...
the bike was righteous
it is a 60cm frame that is pretty close to my size
a good size bike that has been very well kept... beautifully kept... clean and crisp
sparkling chain and straight wheels
tuned and ready to ride... even the tires were pumped to maximum capacity

it really was a shocking site
aside from the 3,000 plus miles it looked show room new

I tried to be gracious as the money changed hands
knowing that this bike was more a gift than a purchase
this man felt the generosity of his brother and shared that generosity with a virtual stranger

Dave hung out for a few minutes as I returned my focus to the Paella on the stove
we made more small talk
then we parted ways
promising to go out for a ride
this man brought some serious Christmas cheer into my often Ba-humbug world

days later I felt good...
I felt good about the gifts I had received and I felt good about the gifts I had given
it is good to pay it forward
and it does come back
not always this immediate
but it does come back

the bike is a TREK 2.3
not sure of the year... but a few years old
it is red and black... not the blue and black like in the photo
I rode the bike on Christmas Day and then again the day following Christmas
each day I called Dave to see if he wanted to ride
that ride will happen... if he is not so fast that the ride is not fun... maybe there will be a number of rides

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