Well, it looks a little like a Charlie Brown Christmas around here, but husband and I did it. We got a tree…or something that looks like it might have come off of a tree somewhere.
And it finally smells a little less like the small brown stinky present the pug left on my carpet last night and a little more like the holidays in this house.
Yes, the pug continues to hold a spot at the top of the naughty list, but we’ve gone ahead and decked the halls anyway…
Don’t worry, he’s been adequately punished…
And that’s all I was asking for. A little holiday cheer, a pug in a santa hat, and a tree, any tree, to put all of those presents under.
Yes, when husband came home before dark for the first time in weeks last night we decided to head out before the sun sunk down below the horizon. Despite the beautiful weather we have been experiencing this December, husband and I haven’t been out and about on the place together for a while. So we loaded up the lab and the pug in his humiliation hat and headed out to check on things.
Down the pink road and into the quickly setting sun we drove, dressed in jeans and boots and nothing but a hat, coat and gloves. As we took a turn onto a prairie trail we both marveled at the weather we’ve been having. We couldn’t believe we don’t have to wear seventeen layers beginning with underwear and ending with a wool cap over the top of a wool cap. Last year at this time we were on a snowmobile zooming over the top of ten foot snow drifts in our search for an oversized Christmas tree that would spend the rest of the month in the house poking the back of my neck as I sat at my computer desk.
Yes, last year we had a bit more ambition, a little more time, the pug had two eyeballs and we had a very white Christmas.
This year? Well, Cliff the weatherman says it’s supposed to be 40 degrees.
Do you know what I am going to do on Christmas if it is 40 degrees?
Go find my horses and ride off into the tropical North Dakota December sunset, because riding horses on a warm, snow-less December day on the northern plains might be a once in a lifetime experience.
I think the horses were feeling the same thing as they came to greet us on our hunt for holiday cheer. Our pickup rolled slowly across the grassy pasture and the paints and the sorrels and the buckskin and bay, fat and happy and furry came trotting down from the horizon to sniff our pockets for treats.
I buried my nose in their fluffy coats to smell the little pieces of summer they hold in their skin. I scratched their noses and took some photos as they posed for me, black silhouettes against a darkening sky. And standing out there on the open prairie with the winter chill on my skin as those horses breathed and snorted and leaned into our hands on the cusp of Christmas, just like a shot from a gun I was flooded with a memory that set me right with the season…right in the place I needed to be…
…to Christmas morning when Pops gets up before the sun. Hours before our bare feet hit the floor to find our warm slippers, he is pulling on his wool cap, his overshoes and coveralls in preparation for the chill of the morning winter air.
If we get up early enough we might catch the tail lights of his ranch pickup as he heads out over the hill, the empty grain buckets he is intending to fill rolling around in the box as he bounces along the gravel road.
And as we walk past the sparkling tree with presents piled high, our stockings filled for the brim waiting for us, as we put our caramel rolls in the oven, brew our coffee and pull our robe tight around us to go wake the children, our little sisters or our husbands, Pops has just parked his pickup next to the grain bin and pulled out those buckets from the back. He is un-latching the creaky door to shovel the sweet smelling feed into the containers, piling it high to the top as the dust from the previous season pools in the crisp air around him.
Carefully he is loading the buckets, two at a time into the back of the pickup… and then he grabs one more and fills that one too before pulling down his cap against the cold and reaching for his handkerchief to wipe his chilly nose.
As we are pulling on our sweaters and sipping our first cup of coffee, pops is heading toward where he last saw the horses, out in the field above his house or down in the coulee between the two places.
And while we’re turning on the holiday music and buttering our caramel roll, Pops is taking a moment to scratch his buckskin between the ears, pull a few burs from the bay’s mane and give them that extra bucket of grain before heading out to check the water and then on into the yard as the sun rises slowly over the house.
When I was younger he would take me with him if I was up in time. And in those quiet moments on Christmas morning when the frost was sparkling on the trees, or the snow drifts were lurking in the shadows of the rising light. in the moments my toes might have been a little chilly and my nose a little runny I don’t remember thinking that we needed to hurry to get back. I don’t remember feeling anxious about opening my presents or checking out my stocking to see what Santa might have brought us. I don’t remember thinking about hot cocoa or Christmas cookies or the new sled I hoped I would be getting…I knew we would get there in time
The only thing I remember on those Christmas mornings when I sat next to Pops on the bench seat of the feed pickup is the lesson he may have mentioned out loud…or maybe not…
No matter the day, no matter the season or the weather, the blizzard or the warmth, no matter how many presents are waiting for you under the tree, our first responsibility is to care for the things that depend on us…
And on Christmas we always throw them a little extra.
If only some of those things that depend on us didn’t poop on our floors…
Alright, alright…I’ll take off the hat…