After years of cruel and unusual delays, during the spring of 5th grade, I was finally granted the birthright of every country-born male-child: A Honda 50 motorbike.
The purchase wasn't free of agony. Not only did I overhear Mom and Dad argue the matter behind a closed door late at night, but I was treated to a "now, this is a big responsibility" lecture as stern as the BB gun talk two years before.
The big worries: Would the $300 purchase force us out on the street? Would the motorbike be the start of my decline into rebellion and sacrilege?
To get the deal done, I had to promise to wear a helmet always, to practice piano daily and to make my bed forever.
Like all campaign promises, those were soon forgotten. The helmet stunk ferociously, I quit piano one year later. And making the bed is a matter of interpretation.
But after the painful preliminaries, I finally had my Honda. For the first week of summer, instead of sleeping in until noon, I was up at six a.m., ready to ride.
I walked the cycle far enough away from the yard so I wouldn't wake anybody up, wiped the dew off the seat, kicked the starter and was off.
My classmates had all had graduated to Honda 90s, or even Kawasaki 125s. If I had dared bring up my Honda 50, they would have laughed me off the playground.
But during summer when I was free from daily contact with persecuting peers, my Honda 50 made me king of the hill.
First, I conquered the road ditches, weaving trails up and down the banks, popping wheelies, getting stuck in the mud.
To add to the adventure, I built trails through the woods next to the ditch. With a lopping sheers and the passion of a pioneer, I cleared the underbrush.
After weeks of battling mosquitoes, poison ivy, snakes, malaria and dysentery, I completed the trail.
Now, when I burst out of the woods, I could swoop down the big ditch and up the other side. Then I roared onto the tar road, looped back, swooped down the ditch and back down the trail.
That fall, I extended the trail. There was now the New Trail and the Old Trail. During winter, I mapped out a whole series of proposed trail additions and numbered them. T-68. T-105. I fully intended to make signs and have controlled intersections.
Not all went smoothly with my new Honda 50.
One morning I got up at 5 a.m. to ride motorbike and I couldn't get the thing started. I choked it until it flooded. Nothing. I took out the spark plug and put it back in. Didn't help.
Grandma had some guests from Sweden. An old Swede named Edvin, who couldn't speak a word of English, was also up at 5 a.m. from jet lag. He watched me struggle for quite some time before walking over to flip the ignition switch to "on."
That helped. But boy did I feel stupid, getting shown up by somebody who couldn't even talk English!
Later that summer, some missionary friends of Mom and Dad's visited. They had a cute little girl named Mary Beth who was six years old. I thought it was pretty cool when she shyly asked me to give her a ride.
Well, I wasn't used to the extra weight. When I tried to swoop down the ditch, we didn't swoop. Instead, the front wheel caught in a rut and the bike flipped end-over-end.
Mary Beth and I got lucky. The Honda didn't land on us. Neither of us had a scratch. But I made Mary Beth promise that the crash was our little secret and she shouldn't tell her parents or mine or we would both be in big trouble and would probably get put in a foster home.
Then a city cousin took the bike out for a ride and came back with the back fender crushed--I mean crushed. And he denied he did it. The gall!
To top it off, both of our riding rights were suspended for an entire day. I learned then and there that life wasn't fair.
In fact, the Honda 50 taught me many important life lessons.
Most importantly, I learned that the true route to happiness lies in having the right toys.