We all have childhood memories of presents we dreamed of getting but never received. As far back as I can remember there was one thing at the top of my list. I wanted a horse.
Mom and Dad gave me stuffed ones, ceramic ones, and pictures of Flicka or Trigger. I tried to be gracious, but deep down, what I really, really wanted was living, breathing horse flesh and a beautiful saddle.
My husband never knew of my equestrian fantasy. When we moved to a place in the country with an old barn I became obsessed with the idea again. A few weeks before Christmas, my practical man asked the customary December question. He was excruciatingly predictable, but this time I was not.
“Well, honey…” he began as usual, “Are you out of your fancy perfume or do you need a new robe? You know it’s almost ho-ho-ho time again.”
I was ready.
“Vernon, I’ve been thinking. I’d like something different this year.”
You’d have thought I had just told him I was running off with the plumber or something. The expression on his face was complete confusion.
“You mean like jewelry or a new purse?”
“No dear. What I’ve always wanted is a horse and I know where there’s a terrific one for sale very cheap.”
Vernon doesn’t take too well to change, especially in midstream, so I had to wait a few minutes for his stunned brain to process the idea. Finally, he responded, though certainly not the way I expected. It was my turn to be shocked.
“Why, a horse sounds like a fine idea.”
I was sure he hadn’t heard me.
“Now, you do understand I mean a four legged animal who wears special shoes and gallops and eats hay don’t you?”
“Ethyl Jean, I know what a horse is. Since we have the room, I think it’s a good idea. Let’s go look at the one you have your eye on.”
Very few times in my life have I been totally speechless. This was one of them.
We found my perfect present standing in his stall all alone. I fell in love immediately. Vernon was suspicious from the first second.
As I cooed and stroked the beautiful animal, my husband’s new found horse sense kicked in.
“How old is he, Ethyl? Have you looked at his teeth? Is he gentle?”
I never turned my head from the adorable brown-eyed beauty who nuzzled my hand for more sugar cubes.
“I don’t know his age, Vernon. Besides, what does it matter about his teeth; and you can plainly see he‘s gentle as a lamb…and just look at his cute little bangs. Hand me that brush, dear.”
When Vernon gave me the grooming tool, he took the opportunity to do a serious inspection of this horse whose name was Charlie.
“Help me open his mouth, Ethyl Jean.”
I have to say, what we found astounded us. Charlie had no teeth. How in the world did he eat? When the owner joined us he explained how they cooked his oats so he could gum them easier. Vernon huffed and puffed, wondering out loud if they put brown sugar and cream in the mixture too. He said he was sorry, but this was not the horse for me. I cried all the way home.
For days I moped around with a big Charlie Horse shaped hole in my heart. On Christmas Eve, Vernon crept into the den and spoke in a soft, contrite voice. I think he was afraid I’d start bawling again.
“Uh, Ethyl, honey. I need you to come down to the barn and help me move that old tractor so I can get it sold.”
Without a word I trudged behind him. When he opened the big doors I heard the sweetest little whinny. There stood my Charlie with a big red ribbon around his neck. I ran over and hugged him. Then I felt obligated to hug my husband too.
“You know what, Vernon? You just beat everything.”
He blushed and stammered.
“I realized how much you love me, Ethyl Jean, and I ain’t so great…except I do still have all my teeth.”
As I went back to the house to make a bucket of tasty oatmeal I heard Vernon doing his traditional ho-ho-ho impersonation. Charlie Horse made the silliest, snorty-noise that sounded very much like a you-know-what-kind-of-laugh.
“Me too pal,” I giggled, thrilled with my wonderful Christmas gift borne of real love, “Me too.”
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