The Christmas Bike
By Jeanne Robertson

I love this man. He is my best friend.
But every Christmas I am reminded . . .

There are many nice adjectives I can use to describe my husband Jerry - words such as dependable, funny and intelligent. Two other words are “financially frugal.” In our house we spell “financially frugal” C-H-E-A-P.

On one of our first dates in 1963, Jerry and I went to what was then "Jim's Tastee Freeze" in Graham. I got a cheeseburger; Jerry ordered a plain hamburger. "Don’t like cheese?" I asked. Oh no, he loved cheese, but the hamburger cost 25¢ and the cheeseburger 35¢. (Nice prices, huh? 1963.) "The ten-cent difference is a 40% increase in price," he explained. "I’ve never seen a cheeseburger that was 40% better than a hamburger." Looking back on it, I think I sensed that was peculiar, but at that age, I thought he could be fixed. Wrong.

Please understand that Jerry is most generous if someone else needs help, but he keeps that kind of giving quiet. He says if no one knows, we’re giving for the right reasons. He spends very little on himself and when we married, he figured that would work for me too.

For years, he talked me into a ten-dollar limit on Christmas gifts to each other. I agreed because I was young and because it made him so happy. It was an annual contest. The winner was the person who could sque-e-e-eze the best gift out of ten dollars. There was no prize. One of us just "won" for the year. As I said, I was young.

After years of odd gifts, I called a halt to the game. That was the year he gave me three place mats; three, to stay under the monetary limit. I later found six more at the bottom of his sock drawer, already wrapped for the next two Christmases. We could afford more expensive, personal gifts and I told him so. The next year I received a drip coffee maker and learned that Jerry considers a cup of coffee a personal thing.

I finally realized that I needed to openly hint for what I wanted, which is what I did in 1985. I wanted a stationary exercise bike. Not just any bike. I wanted a Schwinn Air Dyne. At that time it was top of the line, creme de la creme, expensive and what I wanted. To avoid any possible error I found the bike and told Jerry the place and the price. When he heard the amount, he immediately changed his opinion of out-of-shape thighs and started telling me how good I looked. His financially frugal mind simply couldn’t justify spending “that much money” on something he thought I would use about a month.

I mentioned all this to my assistant Toni who said immediately, “You can forget that bike. You-know-where will freeze over before Jerry spends that much money on a piece of exercise equipment.” It became a running joke in the office. “Can I put this box over here or should we save this space for the Schwinn Air Dyne?” Ha, ha, ha.

You can imagine our surprise when Jerry pulled into the driveway on the morning of December 21st with the Air Dyne sticking out of the trunk of his car. Toni saw it first and announced, “They’re ice skating in you-know-where.”

When he brought it in the office Toni and I raved. We complimented him. We gushed. I thanked him profusely. Jerry just stood there. Finally he said, “Well, Merry Christmas” and left the office. Every time he passed the door the rest of the day one of us would sing out, “There’s the man who gave the perfect Christmas gift” or “There’s the man who is so generous.” We were setting him up for the next year.

Late that afternoon I became aware that Jerry was standing quietly at the office door. Like a little boy admitting he took the candy, he mumbled, “I didn’t buy the bike. I got it for thirty days.”

“Thirty days? You . . . you rented my Christmas present?”

“No, I didn’t rent it. I paid for thirty days. If we want to buy it after January 21, I can apply what I’ve paid to the purchase price or we can take it back. I didn’t think you would use it more than thirty days. But I wouldn’t say I rented it.”

“I would.”

“I figured you would.”

I rode the Christmas bike twice a day for thirty days. Now, 23 years later, it still stands proudly in the corner of our bedroom, serving our household as it has for all these years.

It’s where we throw our clothes.


Reprinted with permission from Alamance Magazine.
Jeanne Robertson, professional speaker and author, can be contacted through  www.JeanneRobertson.com.