|Boone, the horse I waited for|
One night when I was six years old, I saw Santa, or Father Christmas as we called him. The house we lived in back then had an old dilapidated riding ring in the near back woods area and nearby high school girls would journey over on their horses to ride. I would run out to greet them, probably a pest, and sometimes they would lift me up to ride double. Every Christmas, I asked my parents for a horse, and I asked Father Christmas too. Even though it was some fifty plus years ago, I remember it was snowing that Christmas Eve and I was looking up the chimney for any signs of a red suit.
“That chimney story is for little kids, he’ll come in the front door” my older brother said. That comforted me, chimneys seemed scary.
At bedtime, I left the door cracked open and finally saw the final living room lights go dim. We always left the tree lights on at Christmas Eve for Father Christmas and I lay in bed, waiting, for any bells or Ho Ho’s.
Soon I heard noises, but not from the roof, they were from the living room and I tip toed out to spy, the lit tree guiding my bare feet. What I saw is etched in my mind to this day. The colored light bounced off the white socks of someone sitting in my father's chair. And he had a little black dog in his lap, just like our dog. It was Father Christmas! He was smoking my father’s pipe–I could tell because it smelled like my father’s tobacco.
I let out a Haley Mills gasp, holding my little hands over my mouth. I heard another door in the house, and slipped back to my room and under the covers, and clutched my brown bear and didn't move. I am not even sure I was breathing, but the next thing I remember is waking up. Christmas! I ran to the tree. I looked for anything that might indicate a horse was waiting for me in the back yard. But once again, Father Christmas did not bring me a horse. "He can't carry a horse in the sky," my brother said matter of factly. "You'll just have to wait some more." I didn't tell anyone that morning about seeing Father Christmas. I don't know why.
I think back to that night, seeing Father Christmas in that chair. It took me some years to know it was my own Father, so firm were my magical convictions.
I wish I had asked my father at some point in my life, “Did you see me that Christmas Eve night, tip toeing out to spy on what I knew and believed was Santa?”
I imagine you were resting in the quiet of the busiest season, enjoying a moment to yourself, with your dog–our dog–snoring on your lap, as you enjoyed a smoke. And even though you never got me a horse–I had to earn that years later on my own–you gave me daily gifts that no price tag could be put on.
And you gave me that memory, you let me see Father Christmas.