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My Uncle & The Red, White, and Blue Bike

I originally published this in 2012 but its message still speaks to me.

I came from a family of 5. My parents were both immigrants. My mother was a legalized immigrant from Slovakia while my dad was from Italy. I was the oldest and I had two younger brothers. I remember as children we loved to ride bikes. (which kid doesn't.) We especially loved riding our bikes in the lazy afternoons of summer.  We knew that we would be discovering new streets, new parks, and new territories. Bikes represented freedom to us, a tiny slice of the adulthood pie.  Bikes were to us what cars were to adults.  So when our bikes were destroyed that one fateful day our idyllic summer ended before it had even begun.

Accidentally one evening my father, returning from work crashed into our 3 bikes in the garage, destroying all of them.  All that remained were the mangled remains of metal, rubber, and plastic.  We were devastated, we cried, and we began to ask the adult question of why?  We even prayed to God to give us new bikes.

After crying for several hours our uncle came to the rescue.  Being the handy genius that he was, he was able to salvage some of the remains of the three bikes to build one bike. We were ecstatic.  Even though we knew that we would be getting only one bike instead of three we were still grateful.  This bike was more than a bike.  It was symbolic. It was a victory; a prayer and question answered. It was the reclaiming of our summer, of what was lost, but now regained.

My uncle, after working on the bike for several days did something that surprised us all...

He painted the bicycle with the colors of red, white, and blue.  Nobody told him to do so and as children we didn't really care what color it was as long as it wasn't pink.  As I look back at this incident now I understand why my uncle did so.

My uncle was an immigrant from Slovakia.  He left his country, his familiar way of life to begin a new life here.  He left his country to be able to live the American dream as millions of people before him had.  He spent many years and thousands of dollars to finally become an American citizen, 10 years later.  For him painting the bike red, white, and blue represented a new found freedom, and identity;  it was his way of reminding us how blessed we were to be Americans.


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