An evening snow fell wet and heavy covering Northeast Minneapolis in fresh white. The air was warm for January. I took advantage of the warmth to go out to the garage and bundle some cardboard for the next day's city recycling pick-up. The garage was cluttered. I looked for a few other things to put on the curb.
The nice night would bring out more pickers than usual. The curbsides of Minneapolis feed an underground economy of scrappers. Things left on the curbside, especially those with a high metal content, are quickly whisked away.
The things of life we accrue have a certain time span; after they have outlived their usefulness and the bright idea that some-day-I-can-use-this dims the time comes to part with them.
That box of teacups that your departed grandmother gave to you, and you have no plans to use, is probably something that you wouldn't rush out to the curb on her passing, but after a respectable interlude might find its way there. Still though, there can be a sentimental pull.
The soft snow shower continued with fat flakes floating in the yellow light above the garage door. My eyes fell upon my son's bicycle.
The bike had come over from his mother's house in one of his surprises. My son was not the most athletic kid. He was awkward and shy, not a sports participant. He was teased at school, but always carried himself with an enviable confidence. When he hit his mid teens there were some changes - he made friends, the teasing ceased, he joined after-school activities.
Another surprise occurred when I picked up my kids at their mom's house and he was not there. "He rode his bike," his sister said. What! I didn't know he had a bike. The distance between the houses was just six miles through residential streets. The shock in our little world was that he would take on a challenge that was so out of character.
The trip may have been the maiden voyage of the new bike. It was certainly the last. A small mechanical problem prevented a return. The bike sat in my garages for almost a decade and through three moves. He never inquired about the bike, but as each move came I found myself unable to part with the pride-inducing item.
On this snowy night I decided that the bicycle's time had come. My son was in his twenties now and the bike was too small. I rolled it down to the street leaving a line in the snow beside my footprints. I propped the bike at a nice angle. The red bike glowed in the light of a streetlamp. I hoped someone who really wanted the bike, as a bike and could make the repair, would come along. The thought that it might simply be scrapped bothered me. I felt a tug on my heart as I turned away.
That sentimental feeling lasted as long as it took me to notice the driveway needed shoveling.
Inside the house I busied myself with nightly routines.
The doorbell chimed. We live in a century-old house and the doorbell rings like a church bell.
A young woman was at the door.
"Hi, I'm Jessica, your new neighbor from across the street." There is an apartment building over there. In the three years I've lived here I have met some of the residents usually as we push one vehicle or another out of the snow. They, the residents, were a jumble of Jessicas, Jasons, Jennys and Jareds – we live American lives, too busy for the social niceties of times past.
"Say, did you put that bike out there for anyone to take?" she asked.
"I've donated it to the night," I said.
"My nephew had his bike stolen last summer at a party. He's saving his babysitting money to buy a new one. He's thirteen and he would really appreciate it."
I told her she was welcome, but that the bike did have a mechanical problem.
"No worries, my husband's a mechanic. He can fix anything."
I ducked back into the warm house. The gleaming old/new bicycle had found the perfect home. The spirit had carried forward, recycled in that new urban way. Moisture formed at the corner of my eye.
"You're crying," my wife said.
"Naw, it's just a snowflake."