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Our family has fertile, Lancaster County land in lots and parcels, scattered hither and yon: behind our house there is a small garden of beans, sugar peas, and cucumbers, embroidered with roses and peonies. Then there is a field of four acres in Rheems which Daddy plants in corn and sweet potatoes, besides the 9 acres of tomatoes over the river and through the woods near Bainbridge. That’s where I learn to really work–planting, hoeing, and picking the tomato crop.

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On the way home from the tomato field in July, I notice a few stars emerging from the twilight sky. The road from the field back to home seems more bumpy now because I’m tired, and I crave a soapy bath to scrub the green tomato plant “glue” from my legs and soak the dirt from under my fingernails. But there’s a happy spot in my mind with the picture of a beautiful bike in it.

Days in the tomato patch come and go, and finally it’s time for my birthday. Mom tells me to go hide in the dining room and wait for the surprise. From my post in front of the long, lace-covered mahogany table, I hear the screen door open to the wash-house, then the kitchen door, and finally the sound of rubber bike wheels turning on the linoleum. I can hardly wait! The anticipation of the sleek bike I pictured weeks ago in the tomato patch is soon to become real. My daddy proudly holds the handlebars of this very special bike, a look of pleasure on his face.

Well, there is a bike. There before me sits a beat-up, second-hand relic with dents that have not quite been hammered out under ugly, flat paint from the shelves of Longenecker Farm Supply. The shiny blue and white bicycle I’ve anticipated all these weeks has morphed into a wreck of muddy blue and dull white the color of pale dirt. The picture in my mind deflates with my dream, a balloon punctured with a rusty nail.

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For a few seconds, I act happy because I should, but I can’t possibly stifle the flood of tears burning my eyes. I turn and run through the dining room and up the stairs to find solace in my bedroom.

I’d rather have a bag of dimes.

I wonder why my Dad was so proud of his present to me, one I had a totally different perception of.  Is it frugality, cluelessness? Something else?

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