That year all I wanted for Christmas was an English saddle but I doubted I would get one. We didn’t have much money and I knew that even owning one pony and one horse (my mom’s) was a tight stretch at times. We had ‘bought’ my pony for a penny when I was six and she came with a western saddle and bridle. In exchange we promised to take care of her, otherwise we had to give her back. My mom got her horse a few years later when his leg was torn up in a fence and his current owner was less interested in caring for it than my mom was. We had horses but just barely. Still, I was eleven and had enough faith to hold onto a glimmer of hope.
Our tradition was to open stockings at our house and then spend the rest of the day at my grandparents will ALL the family, opening presents one at a time. Around fifteen of us would gather and they made us thank each person by getting up and hugging them after each present, even if it was a shirt. We also stopped at lunch time for a huge meal, so even though it was Christmas day it would still be hours before I knew. But my brother, who was ten, and I had become experts at analyzing presents.
When we arrived at my grandparents and we both checked out the tree. We weren’t allowed to move things around but we could circle the living room and view the presents from many angles. I felt the anticipation seep out of me. There was no present for me big enough to be a saddle. My brother felt the same way. He had wanted a ferret but there was no present big enough to be a cage. At least we both felt the same way. There was something consoling about knowing we had both hoped. It felt less like we had been crazy for even thinking it might happen. And things weren’t that bad. We would still get something special, mom always tried…even if we would get lots of clothes too.
I got a new Breyer horse. My brother got a new Lego set. I opened another box I had pegged as cloths but was surprised by hand sewn horse blankets for my Breyer horses, back then you couldn’t buy them. Judging by how excited the adults were this was my big gift for the year. My brother opened another, we accepted our fate and ate another cinnamon roll.
By now it was dark, we were full and ready to go home but the adults were still talking and finishing the last few presents. We were hovering around the food sneaking another piece of stuffed celery when I heard my mom call my name. I ran around the corner and she pointed under the tree to a present labeled for someone else. So she wanted us to watch the last present be opened. Ok.
“This one is for you.” she said.
“But…” I started to say. She smiled. I looked again. It was big. Big enough to be a saddle.
“I must have mixed up the labels, open it.” She smiled again. She hadn’t made a mistake. Everyone was watching and although I was shy, I was also excited. Could it be? I tore the wrapping and could smell the leather. Mom helped me pull it out of the box. She was so excited for me. I could hear my aunts, uncle and grandparents talking excitedly. I couldn’t believe it. I had my saddle. A real english saddle.
I glanced up and that’s when I also saw my brother. My heart went from flying to falling like a rock. There were no more presents under the tree. He didn’t say a word…but he didn’t have to.
I turned back to the saddle and my mom felt the change in my mood. She opened her mouth but then quickly scanned the room…and saw my brother. I think he might have cried but I didn’t look close. I didn’t want to know. I was so confused.
Lots of stuff happened that I didn’t understand. I thought my mom went for my brother but then she appeared crying, I think, and carrying something. It was also big but she was also trying to explain, to apologize. “I couldn’t leave it under the tree.” she smiled softly at my brother, “Open it, you’ll see why.” He tore the loose paper off easily as it was only draped over the cage. Inside was a ferret that promptly scratched at the bars. I giggled. My brother smiled shyly and my mom had tears in her eyes. “I didn’t think about how it would look to you when Stacy opened the last present.” she spoke softly. “I guess I knew I had more but I didn’t see how it would look to you.”
- * *
It wasn’t until years later that I understood all that I had gained that day. Much of what I know about horses is a gift from my mom. Sometimes she taught me with horses, sometimes she taught me with life. Always she showed me that, we each view a situation from our own perspective, but we would be wise to try to see it through each others eyes.
May your Christmas presents be ones that you will continue to open for years to come.
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What a beautiful story and lesson. Thanks for sharing, Stacy.
This made me cry – what a beautiful story. What a wonderful family… Merry Christmas.
No matter what you believe, that is the true meaning of Christmas. Wonderful story.
That was a precious story! Thank you for sharing. Many lessons there.
Stacy, I’m 84, going on 85 (we all hope). In my growing up years Christmas presents were almost all clothing, and we were glad to get it. One year I got a surprise gift, and pair of flannel pajamas. More comfortable than our tighter long underwear as bed wear. Then, when I was 12, a present that was of your English saddle class. A .22 single shot bolt action rifle. That $6 was most of a week’s pay for Dad. There’s no way I could ever make our kids understand what that meant to me. Can’t remember how long I slept with that rifle. Did you sleep with your saddle? Bill Swart
Yep! All I wanted to do was smell the leather, lol.
So teary reading that one – beautifully written and what a wonderful Mum – so hard to think of everything isn’t it? Have a wonderful Christmas Stacy and all your family – all l
Have a beautiful Christmas with your family!!!!!!!!!
What a lovely, lovely story! Merry Christmas, and God bless you, and your family(both two legged and four legged).
This made me cry. It was beautiful.
Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. Merry Christmas to you all.
Thanks for sharing that!!! What a great memory. Merry Christmas to You, Jesse and the boys. I hope you a wonderful celebration wherever you are.
Wonderful memory Stacey, thank you for sharing it.
I really enjoyed reading this, thank you for sharing.
Thanks for sharing your memories. I see you writing a book in the future…
Love your story. I have tears
OK, you got me! I cried!! It sounds just like Christmas at home…going to Grandmas, not allowed to move or touch the presents, and even the stuffed celery! With us it was Cheese Whiz in there! 🙂
I hope you have a lovely Christmas with your family, and make many more happy memories of your time together. 🙂
We had some lean years too. We all got a present, but some years my Mom would wrap up rolls of paper towel as well, so it “Looked like more.” Just makes me happy to think about it.
Beautiful story, thanks for sharing.
What a lovely, enduring gift from your mother…and I’m not talking about the saddle. Merry Christmas to you and your family, both 2- and 4-legged.
Such a wonderful Christmas memorie, may your blessings continue big as ever!
Is that your brother under Missy’s flailing hooves?
Thank you. Loved this Merry Christmas to you and your family
I remember that picture in the paper.
You have such a great family, Stacy! What a great memory!
So beautifully written, and a lovely lesson for all. Merry Christmas.
Beautiful memory Stacy. Merry Christmas to you and yours. And God Bless us each and every one.
Your story about the Christmas presents made me cry because I never got to celebrate as a child but info with my kids and I want them to have everything they want! And I also have a question about my paint gelding he is 5 years old and I have done some pretty heavy duty riding this summer. I wanted to wait till he was good and grown before riding him hard and making lots of wet saddle blankets 🙂 and making him my solid trail horse. He is very calm and a quick learner, I can show him something once he will do it forever after. But he started refusing the bit and he will throw his head up and around no matter what I do. He is soft mouthed and I am soft handed because I know he listens. I ride him in a offset D snaffle. And he listens fairly well to it. But he won’t stop throwing his head when I get him ready. Can u help me?