A friend on social media recently asked a good question: What brought you joy as a child? What a wonderful thing to ask and I'm glad he did because it gave me the opportunity to dust off my tube sock memories and smile at them once again. This is the first thing that came to mind...
Growing up with a domineering older brother, my parents attempted to entice us into getting along and playing together for many Christmases by giving us the present that the other had asked Santa for. But then one year, we each received the same gift - The Green Machine.
With its swivel-action rear wheels, super size mag style heavy plastic front wheel, and one of a kind stick shift control steering, it was the coolest thing a boy growing up in the 70's could own. This low slung junior Ultimate Driving Machine allowed me to "twist, turn, and spin like wild" just like the ads promised.
As many of us hadn't moved up to bikes yet, I was the envy of all the other boys in my neighborhood as I zoomed down the sidewalk, my disco era hair flying behind me as my bell bottom pants filled with the wind and my shirt's huge collar rose up like wings on either side of my head. For the first time in my life, I felt confident and special. But status symbol that it was, that Green Machine represented more for me. My parents realized that this toy couldn't just be confined to the sidewalk in front of ours and our neighbor's houses. They knew I had to be allowed to explore the neighborhood unfettered and so for the first time in my life, I had freedom and the means to go where I wanted. Its black, low bucket seat allowed me to pack a baloney and cheese sandwich, a red coconut Zinger, and a thermos drink in my Mork & Mindy backpack and disappear for the entire day. The only rule was that I had to be indoors by the time the streetlights came on. Telling time like that was easy in those days. When you started smelling dinner being prepared in houses around you, it was time to head back home.
I loved that spring and summer more than any other that had come before, but then one day, the inevitable happened. That big plastic mag wheel that drove my Green Machine finally wore through. It was no longer a wheel, but two discs of flimsy plastic attached to the pedals that could no longer support my weight. The thick back wheels that had endured countless spin outs now sported flat spots and holes as well. I had worn out my vehicle and there was no way to repair it.
I've always wondered why the toy companies chose not to sell replacement wheels. Maybe they didn't even think about it. I think they could have made a second fortune from doing so.
So with great sadness, I parked my Green Machine in the backyard, unwilling to actually let it go. It sat there for a long time, but disappeared one day, I'm not sure when. I guess my father had enough of mowing around it in the backyard. Either way, I'm kind of glad I didn't take notice. It would have been painful to see it go.
I soon graduated to a sleek ten speed bike and while I enjoyed riding it, it never gave me the same sense of raw joy and pure freedom as that emerald colored three wheeled wonder with its childhood mystique. I'll always fondly remember my first taste of freedom and miss my Hottest Ride in Town.