I Gave My Bike a Girl’s Name

I don’t know why two boys would name their bikes, but we did. My brother named his bike “Timothy.” His bike was red, much like all of his favorite stuff including his hair, shag carpet and the truck he drives today. Where did he get the name “Timothy?” I don’t know. Perhaps, his most recent Sunday School lesson was on Timothy. Whatever his reason, at least he gave his bike a masculine name. I, however, went with a decidedly more feminine name.

My bike was gold with a banana seat and sissy bars. I took it everywhere. I rode it to school, to the park, to football & baseball practice, and—if my mom would allow it—to the corner convenience store for an Icee.  I hopped curbs and jumped off ramps with this bike.  Riding this bike was, at times, my favorite childhood activity. But why did I give my bike a girl’s name?

I named my bike after a very special person in my life.  I choose to give my bike a name that was filled with honor, love, and kindness. My bike’s name was Colleen.

Our family was blessed with loving grandparents, cousins and numerous aunts & uncles. I don’t use the word “blessed” lightly, we truly were blessed with a wonderful extended family.  However, one lady stood out.  I knew her as Aunt Colleen. Those two words—Aunt Colleen—may seem quite bland to you, but to me they were the epitome of love, acceptance and comfort.

I remember one evening being sent to my room after my dad’s belt had found its way to my bottom a few times. I was crying and very upset over the discipline—which I am sure was unjustified. As I lay on my bed in utter despair, I remember saying, “Nobody loves me but Jetina & Aunt Colleen.” Jetina was our poodle. Aunt Colleen is the subject of this story. Aunt Colleen is my mom’s sister.

Aunt Colleen was more than an aunt. She was more like an abundantly loving grandmother. Mammaw, her mother and our grandmother, had died when I was only six years of age. Aunt Colleen, who had never married, showered us nephews and nieces with attention, gifts and time.  We couldn’t wait to go to her house on Christmas because we knew we would make a hauling. She loved giving gifts. Birthdays, too, were never forgotten—even in our adulthood.

Aunt Colleen always welcomed us loudly and with a huge smile.  She would sometimes entertain us on the piano, and on very special occasions, the accordion.  Nothing slowed her down. Even with a limp, remnants of childhood polio, she actively engaged in our lives. She taught us board games such as Chinese Checkers, Life, & Checkers. Aunt Colleen took interest in us.

Aunt Colleen, with two of our daughters, just a few months before her death.

Lunch or dinner at Aunt Colleen’s was always an event. I look back on those days and I now wonder “how did one lady make all that food!” Roast, chicken, turkey, potatoes, gravy, myriads of vegetables and salads and, of course, some type of yummy rolls filled the dining room table and any available flat surface nearby.  Never was there just one dessert, rather there was always a selection. I don’t know how she did it.

Aunt Colleen was a deeply spiritual woman.  She served the Lord and others with passion.  For 48 years she faithfully played the piano at our church, Westside Alliance Church in Birmingham, Alabama.  A true highlight of our Sunday services was the piano solo she often played while the offering baskets were passed down the rows of pews. As a preteen, I couldn’t wait till I was old enough to be in her Sunday afternoon Jet Cadet’s class where we memorized Bible verses and gained a greater understanding of Christian living.

Aunt Colleen’s faith was intimately melded into her love for her nieces and nephews. I remember one particular day we were discussing some issues in our family and she began to weep over one of my cousins who was making some wrong decisions. We were dear to Aunt Colleen—every one of us.

When it came time for me to go off to college, it was my Aunt Colleen and my mom who drove me all the way to Minnesota from Alabama.  When I married in Lincoln, Nebraska, she made the trip and played the piano at our wedding. Anytime I came back home there were two people I anxiously wanted to see, my grandmother—“Mother Bruce” we called her—and Aunt Colleen.

I say she never married. Well, we thought she never would. Yet, one of the thrills of my adult life was the day when I helped officiate her wedding.  At the age of 65 Aunt Colleen became a first-time bride.

Five years after her wedding, Aunt Colleen was diagnosed with cancer. She was given months to live. I guess the doctors don’t always know. Today, Aunt Colleen is in her eighties.  She has courageously battled cancer and dealt with numerous physical setbacks.  She limited now in where she can go and what she can do, yet her faith and loving heart remains strong.

Looking back on my childhood I would agree that Timothy is a fine name. Yet, I am very proud of the girl’s name I, as a young boy, gave my bike. My bike had to have a special name—Colleen was perfect.

This was an earlier post to my blog that somehow was regretfully deleted; Several who knew my Aunt Colleen had posted wonderful memories of her. I was able to give this “post” to her just a few months before her death on October 31, 2010. I spoke at her memorial service and much of what I said came from what is written here. I miss her dearly.


Jack Bruce  lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and four children.

To forward this blog simply copy and paste the following link into an email:  http://wp.me/pBhtB-aF

You may follow Jack on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jackwbruce


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