Last night, mom and dad and I sat in a favorite restaurant in Mesa, Arizona, and swapped holiday stories while a musician sang a mix of holiday, country, old folk, and hippie songs. The songs were full of the past, and prompted me to ask my parents about their favorite holiday memories.
Mom’s reminded me of all the change that she has lived. She and her four siblings were quarantined for scarlet fever and an Aunt brought presents. Mom’s present was a heart-shaped locket with room for pictures in it. Even better, two of her sick brothers were cured by penicillin. These were the early days of the drug and it was used as a test on them. It worked, although her oldest brother was bedridden so long that he had to learn to walk again.
Dad and I shared the same favorite Christmas morning. It was the year I was six. We lived in Hidden Hills, California. The Christmas tree was in the living room, which had a wall-length window include a sliding glass door (if you wonder how to repair broken windows, we have recent experience in that. will write later in a new post), all of it covered with mustard-yellow curtains. I woke up and sat by the Christmas tree, and dad pulled open the curtains.
My mouth fell open and my heart filled with a combination of joy and disbelief. I thought I might burst with happiness. For there, just outside of the window, my very first horse cropped the lawn while patiently waiting for me to run out and greet him. Before I could greet him, I had to actually believe that the moment was real, that miracles existed, and that my beloved father had bought me a horse. Mom and Dad had hidden him at a neighbor’s overnight and gone out and gotten him before I got up, which must have been the early cold of just before dawn.
Poncho was a beautiful creature, a half Morgan and half Shetland mutt of a pony who got me kicked out of a pony class and a horse class in the same show once. But he was beautiful, and well mannered, and I loved him for years. He and I rode in parades and I did tricks on his back in front of crowds of people and lay in deep California grass with him on a lead while I watched him snack on the hillside and thought about life.
Today, these memories feel like old times, almost like fiction. They shine through the past, freighted with emotion. I can still remember what it felt like to see the curtains open on a horse. While we listened to the singer go through all the verses of Jingle Bells, we referred to a nearly-infinite library in our hands, using it to answer questions. We spoke in terms none of would have known in these memorable Christmases from fifty-one and almost seventy years ago.
My parents and I are lucky to be alive and healthy to share our memories, to listen to music together, and to have a holiday morning together tomorrow.