It may seem a little odd to be writing a Christmas story during the first week of October and perhaps even odder to be writing about Christmas at the dump. But the dump is where this story starts and where Christmas one year did too, a long, long time ago on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.
When my three brothers, The Sister and I moved into the house that Dad built at 110 Flamingo Street, I had just turned 6 years old. It was an exciting time for all of us as we spent that first summer experiencing all kinds of fun new things — like trips to the dump.
Now I grant you, a trip to the dump for a grown-up might not be too exciting, but for us kids, it was truly a place of wonder, even though it was a bit smelly during the summer. My brothers and I volunteered to join Dad on his first dump trip that July.
After turning into the entrance, we watched in amazement, mouths wide and eyes transfixed, as we slowly rolled by mountains upon mountains of trash. Each one larger than the last, the monuments to everything worthless and discarded seemed to go on forever.
Crawling up some of those mountains were monster-sized bulldozers pushing freshly dumped trash up and over the top, adding to the height of even the highest pile. Unfortunately, our destination wasn’t any of those. It was the huge mound of metal in the center of the dump.
With a stern warning to be careful and stay away from all moving equipment, Dad parked next to the mound and opened the doors to our van. For the next hour, like ants crawling on a piece of hard candy, my brothers and I scurried all over that pile of metal searching for any toy that had mistakenly made its way to the dump. We were so consumed in our search we failed to notice what Dad was doing.
That day, each of us kids left with an almost perfect toy from the dump. Oddly, Dad didn’t leave with anything. He went back the next day without us to see the Dump Master to pick up what he had dragged out of the pile and placed off to the side the day before for safekeeping.
During the next five months, we all made many trips back to the dump with Dad. Each time he visited the mound of rusting metal. Once home, we went off to play with any new toys we found, and Dad worked tirelessly during the evenings on our Christmas presents.
Alone, behind the locked door of his shop, he worked late into the night. Finally, he was finished. None of us kids expected much for Christmas that first year. After all, we had just moved into our new house during the spring, and for us that was a big enough gift. But to our dad, it wasn’t. He had something else in mind — something that made that first Christmas unforgettable.
After opening all the presents under the tree, our parents told us there was still one more in the backyard. We nearly knocked each other over running outside to see what it was, but to our surprise, there was nothing. Bewildered, we turned to go back inside and that’s when the garage door opened.
A bright light spilled down from above on four new bicycles, the one thing none of us had dared to ask for because we knew how expensive they were.
Our parents didn’t buy the “new” bikes in any store. Dad had spent the last five months salvaging bike frames and parts from the huge mound of metal at the dump. He spent countless hours repairing, cutting, hammering, welding, sanding, and painting — a true labor of love.
It was also something else, the first bike I ever owned and a special memory he created that I’ve never forgotten.
Sometimes in your life you may feel as though you have no value, broken beyond repair and discarded by others on the trash heap of life. That is, until that someone special comes along and helps you see your true worth.
This is how I felt a long, long time ago … until The Wife found me. Her love fixed what was badly broken inside, allowing me to shine once again. That’s now been over twenty years ago, and I will be forever thankful for her understanding, compassion and love.
Fortunately for me, she still believes that sometimes the discarded and forgotten things can turn out to be the best gifts of all.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]