The Christmas Pony

There was one thing that was always on the top of my Christmas list for several years that I never got: a pony.

Granny put her foot down adamantly about that pony.

“Where you think we’re gonna put a pony? What are you going to do with a pony? Do you have any idea how much it costs to feed and take care of a horse?” she asked.

“Not a horse. Pony,” I reminded her.

“You know a pony is the puppy version of a horse, don’t you?”

“I don’t want a full-grown horse, I want to get it as a pony.”

I never got the pony, of course. And that is fine.

The pony was the ultimate bargaining chip, my bluff.

I could be quite convincing to everyone that I wanted a pony.

I overheard Granny and Pop discussing it, with my grandfather saying he had already put out feelers to find me one.

“She’ll want it inside, Bob. I ain’t gonna have a pony in this house. And you know she will. That crazy child will be a-saying she’s gotta cuddle it and sleep with it.”

My uncle was the one who should have been worried; it would have been him who had to feed it.

I would ask daily about the pony.

The kicker was me writing P-O-N-Y in great big letters across the top of my Christmas list every year.

“Why don’t you put some other things on there you’d like, too?” Mama suggested.

“All I want is a pony.  If I can’t have a pony, I don’t want anything.”

“Well, humor Santa and put some other stuff on there in case he can’t carry a pony on his sleigh.”

So, I did.

I put all the things I really wanted.

The Lite-Brite, all the Little House on the Prairie books, Jordache jeans, an Atari, and all the other gifts I wanted, way more than a pony.

I knew there was no way I would get a pony and while I love horses, they terrify me.

Mama was so grateful to see I had something more reasonable on my Christmas list that she got me everything.

Granny, however, caught on after a few years.

“Don’t you even start with this pony mess this year, littl’ un,” she said. “I know your game.”

“What game, Granny? Monopoly?”

She gave me a hard glare through her glasses. “Not Monopoly. Sudie’s pony game. You start around November wanting a pony and carry on and carry on. You know good and well we ain’t getting you a pony, but you also know we’ll feel bad enough about it to get you everything else.”

How did she figure this out? What kind of grandmotherly voodoo powers did she have?

I denied this fact and effectively launched the pony request once again, until the following year, Granny had me declare at the dinner table I had given up on the pony. Or else.

“You try this again and there won’t be nothing on your list under the tree. It will be footy pajamas and underwear.”

The thought of footy pajamas and underwear was enough to make me stop asking for the pony. No kid wants to go back to school after the break and tell their friends they got that for Christmas.

Given my shopping procrastination, I start asking Cole for his list around the beginning of November.

This year, the only thing he mentioned was a Playstation 4 Slim Golden Version.

“That’s all I want, Mama,” he said.

I thought one video console couldn’t be that bad.

Could it?
“Six hundred dollars!” I exclaimed when I saw the price. For one video game console? Was this console able to communicate with the Space Station?

I thought that was excessive but at the same time, felt bad. It was the only thing he wants.

“Is there anything else you would like?” I asked.
He thoughtfully pondered this for a moment. “Hmmm…no, not really. I think I have everything else I want. That’s it.”

I wasn’t exactly sure how I would pull that off. We try to not focus on the price or the gifts but on the meaning of the season.
Still, I stressed and agonized over this.
I looked around online for cheaper ones.

Nope.

“I can’t wait to play the Playstation 4,” Cole said every day. “Thank you so much for getting it for me.”

I cringed inside.

“Cole, what if they are sold out?”

“Oh, they are priced where they won’t be. Don’t worry about that, Mama.”

I groaned.

A few days later, Cole handed me a list.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Just in case they are sold out, Mama. Or you can’t find one or you think it’s too expensive. You know, there’s a lot of reasons why you may not be able to get one for me.”

Sweet, sweet son of a biscuit eater.

My child had beat me at my own game.

His pony was just in the form of a Playstation 4.

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“What was Thanksgiving like when you were a little girl?” Cole asked as I was making plans for this week.

“It was nice,” I said, before I gave it much thought.

“Just nice? Was it different in any way?”

What was different? I had to think. When we get caught up in our day to day busy-ness, we forget the moments that became traditions and memories.

My Thanksgiving began when it was still dark, as I wanted to get up as early as possible to enjoy the day. Granny had started cooking the night before when she got off work, and her turkey would already be a golden perfection, just waiting until we all ate.

I would sit in the den, listening to her humming in the kitchen and she would wrap me under a quilt, tucking the end under my feet to keep me warm.

“What do you want for breakfast?” she would ask.

I swear, the old gal was downright sweet when she was cooking. Something about being in the kitchen suited her soul.

“I don’t know,” I would say, knowing what she would offer.

“You want me to fix you a sandwich with the first slice of turkey?”

I would nod and minutes later, she returned with a sandwich of white bread generously coated with mayonnaise, salt, pepper and warm turkey.

“The parade will be on later,” she would tell me, turning on the TV.

Granny spent most of the day in the kitchen but it was worth it – she had homemade coconut and banana cakes; Mississippi mud cake; and sweet potato and chocolate pies. Two separate pans of dressing – one with onions and one without for me and my uncle Bobby.

It was a rare day during the week that I had all of my family home in the same time frame – Pop and Bobby were home, instead of working. Mama usually had worked the night before and with it being a holiday, she normally worked then as well, but she’d watch the parade with me.

Cousins, aunts and uncles would wander in throughout the afternoon to watch part of the football game or just visit.

To me, it was a perfect day.

I don’t even remember any Black Friday sales when I was a little girl – if there was, we didn’t go. Granny had the Sears Wish Book and that’s where she was doing her shopping.

Normally, we were still digesting the day after Thanksgiving.

It changed, when I met my ex, as I started celebrating Thanksgiving with his family.

I never realized how much I missed my own family’s celebration until I got older and things had changed so much it could never be re-created. And, just like that, everything was different.

It was a simple, idyllic time, surrounded by family, during an era free of fear and worry. The news was not filled with horrors or stories that make your heart ache. Or at least it wasn’t for me, because I was a child.

I didn’t know there were things in the world to fear.

How was my Thanksgiving different?

So much has changed in more than 30 years.

The world is such a different place now, a real life dichotomy that can be terrifying and full of hope at the same time. Things are so different now than when I was a little girl.

There’s a more hurried pace and the time together is so much shorter. We are lucky to just have Thanksgiving dinner with family now, those times of Thanksgiving spanning over several days are long gone.

But there we are, we find ourselves surrounded by those we love and are thankful for.

“Not much has changed,” I said, kissing his head. “It’s still a day we focus on all we are grateful for.”

Indeed, and we truly have so much.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/18312/

Hallogivingmas (10/9/2014)

“Mama, why do they have Christmas stuff out already?”

A good question, I thought. It was not even Halloween yet. Heck, this was a few weeks ago. But there among the leftover school supplies and Halloween candy were Christmas stockings and some tinsel.

“They are wanting to get customers into the spirit early I guess,” was my answer.

It seemed wrong to my child. He wanted to make himself have a toothache on Halloween and not feel bad about his gluttony; kind of hard to do if you have perpetual reminders Santa was watching.

“Does it work?” he wanted to know.

I doubted it. They had been moving Christmas up earlier and earlier each year and so far it hadn’t motivated me to shop any earlier. I still did my mad dash on Dec. 23.

The holidays had all become one mushed up rush of blurred lines where we are told to rush, rush, rush from one experience to the next instead of enjoying the memories that are being made during that occasion.

I had frowned when I saw the Halloween costumes being displayed before school started. How can I decide between a witch or fairy princess when it’s too dadblamed hot to even begin to think about putting something latex with faux suede on my thighs in 100-degree weather?

It’s hard to choose what bags of candy to get for yourself and what to get for possible trick-or-treaters if you are trying to remember if all the lights worked on your Christmas tree.

For that matter, I was trying to remember where my little pink tree was. It seemed like Lamar had left it out – it took up precious real estate in the barn that houses bicycle paraphernalia – and I heard him murmur he had to toss it. Maybe I needed to go ahead and buy a new tree? They were already out on display.

I think it goes beyond retailers wanting to maximize shopping days in the fourth quarter. I think it has to do with our rush-rush-rush, instant gratification pace we have come accustomed to. Everything is smooshed together so we can multi-task.

Much like the way we have to stay connected on our phones, checking updates, emails and letting the world know what we are having for dinner – all while pretending to get in quality time with our families as we simultaneously work on something else.

I am guilty of this myself, which is why I know all too well the feeling of being overwhelmingly, hectically rushed.

“Did they have Santas out before Halloween when you were a little girl?” Cole wanted to know, holding a snow globe in one hand, a black cat in another.

No. Back in the olden days of the ‘70s and ‘80s, when life was wonderful despite the polyester and the shag carpet, we had separation of holidays.

Halloween was honored with black and orange taffy, candy corn and plastic masks we couldn’t breathe in.

Thanksgiving was weeks later and was basically the day of honoring football and feasts.

Christmas did not officially kick off until the gaudy green and red streamers were wrapped around the light poles in the Sears parking lot.

Around that same time, maybe a few weeks before, the Sears Wish Book was delivered, which let every child know to get their act together because Christmas was coming. Granny would give me the cherished catalog with instructions to circle the stuff I wanted for Christmas.

“And just because you circle it, don’t mean you gonna be getting it,” she would remind me.

Sometimes, things ran out or were on back order and either Granny picked something else off the list or she asked if I wanted to wait until it was available. Sometimes, I waited. Some things were worth the wait, even if they were for Christmas.

No Black Friday, no Cyber Monday. There wasn’t Amazon drones to deliver, it was real people you’d see bringing the boxes in to the counter. And dangit, it all started in December. We pretty much considered the days after Thanksgiving to be the days we digested – not the days we strove to see how much money we could save by spending oodles at ungodly hours while fighting strangers for Elmo dolls and things we didn’t need.

And somehow, despite the lack of early displays urging us to “believe” and “celebrate,” those memories were special. Simpler, and not memorialized on Instagram and heaven help – Granny didn’t even get a recipe off Pinterest – but they were far more meaningful.

family halloween pic“I want Halloween to be Halloween, and not crammed into Christmas,” Cole said, putting the snow globe back. “Halloween is about candy and magic; Christmas is about Baby Jesus and believing. I can’t keep my holidays straight if they have everything out at once. I want to remember Halloween for what it is, not get everything confused.”

I agreed.

“You don’t think they would lump them all together, do you?” Cole wondered.

“Nah,” I said. “Besides, it’s too long to put Happy Merry Hallogivingmas on a card. Hallmark would have a heck of a time marketing that.”

Unless they could lump Easter in there, then that may be another story.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/15608/

photo: The family celebrating Halloween, 2009. Cole was going as The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, complete with blue blankie and a Snoopy.