Journal entry: August 30, 1974 (age 5) — Godfathers & Motorcycles
Usually, my trips with my mom to her sister Millie Grace’s house are fairly uneventful. Mom and Aunt Millie are best friends, and I just like to listen to them talk over lunch. Aunt Millie has a beautiful house, filled with country charm and blue Pfaltzgraff. In this very homey home, she and my Uncle Art are raising the young end of their line of eight children. The kids all share their mother’s gentleness and their father’s great sense of humor. One of the grown Grace children is my cousin, Vincent. Vincent is important to me. He’s my godfather, and has always given me lots of attention.
For my fifth birthday a few months ago, Vincent gave me a pewter beer mug that’s as big as my head. My parents seemed confused by the gift, but I love it. (It even has my initials and birthday on it: T.A.M., 5-4-69.) Vincent has been in something of a wild, rebellious phase since he returned a couple of years ago from a difficult tour with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He’s also a first-rate character, or what my mother calls “a real bird.” Like his father, he is loud, funny, and full of stories. Unlike his father, he has long, curly red hair, a beard, and a motorcycle.
Today, Vincent was at his parents’ house during our lunch. While our moms cleaned up the kitchen, Vince led me outside to check out his motorcycle. “That, young Timothy,” he gravely intoned, “is an imported Triumph 750 Tiger.” I had no idea what that meant, but the bike definitely looked cool. Looking down at my wide-eyed stare, Vincent said conspiratorially, “Wanna take a ride?” A moment later, I was sitting in front of him on the motorcycle. Vincent put on his helmet, which didn’t quite contain his mass of curly locks. Then he put an ancient football helmet on me. It was roomy enough for him to spin it around on my head, which he did.
When his boot slammed down onto the kick start, the whole machine shook with energy and noise. Before our moms could respond to the ominous roar, Vincent and I tore out into the mean streets of Hillcrest. It was the most fun thing I had ever done, and I was screaming with excitement. Vince kept a firm grip on me and rode at a reasonable speed, but the wind made it feel like I was on an out-of-control horse. We turned from Phelps Street onto the Brandywine Highway, and then took Old State Road back to Phelps.
The whole trip only lasted a few minutes, but by the time we pulled back into the driveway, an unwelcoming committee had assembled. Aunt Millie lit into Vincent, saying he should never take a child out on his bike. My mom just stood there, white as a sheet. “Oh my God!” was all she could say, over and over. She lifted me off the bike and hugged me, hard. As she removed the football helmet from my head, I turned to my still-smiling godfather.
“Can we do it again?!”