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.

Advertisements

Catching Santa (12/16/15)

My child had a plan.

It was an intricate plan, complete with several diagrams and involved string.

I watched him furiously make his plans one evening, drawing everything out, measuring distance and re-evaluating the steps needed.

I am guessing it was close to watching Einstein at work.

“What are you doing?” I finally asked when he began getting the Border collie involved.

“I’m working on a project,” was his reply.

He continued with his diagram, erasing and redrawing lines when he found something didn’t work.

The Border Collie wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but remained steadfast in the endeavor.

“Cole, you’ve got twine around Pumpkin. What are you doing?”

“I’m going to catch him,” he said.

“Catch who?” I asked.

“Santa.”

Oh, boy.

“Really? How are you going to do that?”

He stood up and surveyed the preliminary execution of his plans.

“Well, I am still working on it, but I am going to leave him a note saying there’s milk in the fridge, when he opens the fridge, it will trip this string, which is supposed to pull this down and take a picture,” he took a breath. “I’m trying to get this little camcorder to work, but not sure how I can when it only records for a few minutes. It needs to be running a while. As you can see, I am still working on this.”

“I see.”

He continued: “I am going to get proof Santa’s real, Mama. You know? I am going to get video and photographic evidence! He is real, right?”

Ah, so that’s what it was. I wondered when this day would come, I just never expected my child to come up with a plan involving video and fifth grade engineering to be involved.

“He is,” I answered. “But, he stops coming when you stop believing in him.”

“I know that,” Cole said softly. “I still believe Mama, but I hear a lot of other kids saying he’s not real. I want to prove them wrong.”

Being homeschooled, I am not quite sure which kids he is referring to, other than maybe something he heard before at school. He had started questioning then but wanted to believe so he didn’t pursue the issue when I told him Santa was very much real.

Now, it’s me wanting him to believe just a little bit longer, to hold on to that magic that we only get to have when we are children and can believe in Santa, the tooth fairy, and other things we lose in a less sparkly and too harshly real adulthood.

I wanted him to believe in the magic of a chubby elf bringing presents and spreading goodwill, instead of the scary world we live in, where our worst fears are becoming too real.

I wanted him to hold on to this last bit of childhood as long as he could.

I can’t remember when Santa stopped coming for me.

I had asked Mama if he was real, and her reply was the same as mine: “When you stop believing, he stops coming.” There was no declaration of not believing, no disavowing Santa, just one year, there was no Santa.

And from then on, things were so different.

My behavior – whether good or bad-didn’t determine my gifts. There was no, “You better behave if you want Santa to come.”

I had to behave because it was expected of someone my age. You know, that responsible behavior befitting someone Santa didn’t come visit anymore.

I missed those days, the sense of wonder, the feeling that somehow, miracles could and would happen. I tried to hold on to that feeling, but when you are an adult, it can be hard to cling to hope.

I wanted my child to hold on, and to believe as long as he could.

“You know, I think you may have some flaws in your plan,” I suggested.

He scratched his head. “How so?” He had even ran through a trial run with his dad acting as Santa.

“Well, for one thing, Santa is magic.”

“Yeah?”

“You can’t capture him on film. He won’t show up.”

Cole squinted his eyes as he pondered this. “You mean like a vampire or ghost?”

“Kinda. He won’t show up though. And, if he can see you when you are sleeping and watches you throughout the year, he knows you are plotting this right now. He may not come if he thinks you are questioning he is not real.”

“You’re killing my dreams, Mama!” Cole cried. “You’re killing my dreams!”

“I am not trying to kill your dreams; I am trying to make sure Santa brings you presents this year!”

He dropped his head. “It’s not that I don’t believe, Mama, I want to prove to everyone else he is real. I believe. I do. But not everyone else does.”

I kissed the top of his head, which now comes up to my chin. “And, sometimes, sweet boy, just the faith of one, can keep it alive for others.”

Santa is scheduled to arrive this year, but the string and cameras will be put away. It may be the last year he visits our home, but I am going to try to keep the spirit alive as long as I can.

The Spirit of Christmas (12/24/2013)

The Spirit of Christmas (12/24/2013)

I don’t remember when Santa quit bringing me presents.

It wasn’t that I didn’t believe – or was it? Had I let my tween angst and cynicism take over and without uttering a word, the internal shift had caused Santa to not show up one year.

I still had my presents. They were still under the tree, all shiny and new, adorned with ribbons and bows.

But something was missing.

I wanted Cole to keep believing in Santa each year, even though his questions made me wonder. What was his friends telling him? Did they still believe?

“Is Santa real?” he would ask out of the blue and usually at odd times, like in the middle of July.

“Do you believe he’s real?” I would ask back.

“Yes,” he would reply matter of factly. “Do you?”

I do, or thought I did. Maybe my faith, even in the spirit of Christmas, was not as strong as it once was. I had to admit, I had grown weary with the commercialism, the feeling that no matter what I did, it was not enough and I was not putting on SuperChristmas.

“Did you ever see Santa?” Cole asked. This time, it was last year, a few days before Christmas.

“Yes, I did,” I told him. And I did see Santa once. Not the department store Santa either, but I remembered just as clearly as if it was yesterday.

I was probably around Cole’s age at the time and had heard those rumors. Some kid at school had an older sibling and they came to school telling us that Santa was not real. He was a phony and a fake and some lie our parents made up to make us behave all year. I had started asking my own questions of Mama.

“All I know is, if you believe, he shows up. Once you stop…well,” she let her voice trail off as she went about her crossword puzzle.

I was too scared to question much more; I had put a lot of good stuff on the list that year and didn’t want to risk it.

Maybe I could set a Santa trap? I thought. No, Mama worked nights and may fall in it instead.

But she usually got home after Santa had already left.

“What time does Santa usually get here?” I asked Granny.

“He comes after you go to sleep,” she answered.

“How soon after I go to sleep?”

“I don’t know, I don’t set my clock by him. The sooner you go to sleep the better.”

Then I could pretend to be asleep and wait til I heard him, I thought.

I got up in the bed, snuggled down under the covers, feigning sleep. I heard Granny come in to check on me, tucking the quilt around me tightly. She went back to the kitchen, getting her turkey started for the next day.

I waited until I heard her steadily at work before I slipped out of my cocoon, lifting the curtain to peer out of the frosty glass. I pressed my nose to the window, trying to adjust my eyes to the darkness outside. Not getting a good view, I wiped the condensation off and re-pressed my nose to the glass, only to find a pair of eyes, shielded by a hand, peering back at me.

There was no time to scream. No time to run. I couldn’t tell Granny; she thought I was asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.

But there, in all his glory, was Old Saint Nick peeking in on me.

I asked Granny the next day if anyone had been outside Christmas Eve. She said not that she knew of; she hadn’t even heard Santa when he arrived. Pop and Bobby had been asleep and Mama at work. And I had heard the old gal cooking until the wee hours.

I never told a soul until I told Cole last year. His eyes grew as big as saucers.

“I would love to see him!” he exclaimed.

“No, you wouldn’t,” I said. “It about scared the stuffings out of me.”

We made Santa some cookies and left the reindeer some carrots and a bowl of fresh water on the back deck.

Cole scurried off to bed extra early, determined he could re-create the mystery I had created so many years before. He just knew he could wake up and catch a peek at Santa. I promised to stay up and let him in so the dogs wouldn’t bite him.

Lamar and I put his toys out under the tree when we knew he was sound asleep. I wanted to stay up a little later, why, I don’t know, but drifted off in the recliner as I followed Santa’s sleigh on the news.

Roubaix woke me with a soft bark. Venus ventured off her corner of the couch to sniff at the door.

“What is it?” I asked them. They both gave me the shepherd head tilt but did not bark again.

They seemed almost in awe.

Then, I heard it. Bells. Tinkling, jingling bells. Almost like sleigh bells.

I ran to the bedroom where I dove under the covers and scared to believe what just happened, made myself go to sleep.

The next morning, the cookies were gone. Half-eaten carrots were found and the water bowl was empty.

Could it have been?

Was it?

Surely not…but maybe?

Mama texted, “Merry Christmas! Did Cole like what Santa brought him?”

I texted her back he did; then added. “Mama, I may be going crazy…but last night…I think I heard sleigh bells.”

It seemed like forever before she replied. “I believe you” was all she wrote.

“You do?”

“Yes. I heard them once too. When you were about Cole’s age.”

“What do you think it was?” I texted back.

Surely Mama, with her wisdom would have a logical, reasonable response.

“I know what it was,” her message read. “It was the spirit of Christmas.”

And maybe at a time we both needed to believe, more than a child, that Christmas was still very much alive.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/13630/