Sometimes we left the horses up in the hills on the summer range until after Christmas. One Christmas Eve afternoon, Dad said he was running up to the hills to feed the horses some hay and invited me along. We drove for an hour up the rutted, drifted roads to the pasture. When the horses saw the pick-up loaded with hay, they came running. Shorty (our horse that was born on a day so cold that it froze his ears off), led the herd. He often did. He always snorted and held his nubbin-eared head high. He did not lack for confidence. The rest of the horses stamped and kicked and waited for us to throw the hay over the fence. They were really glad to see us.
After we fed the horses, Dad said we ought to stop by Wally and Alvin’s to wish them a Merry Christmas. Mom had sent something to give them, probably a loaf of Christmas bread or a bowl of caramels -- her Christmas trademarks.
Wally and Alvin were two old ranchers that lived at the base of the hills far from anyone. Wally, the father, and Alvin, his son, had a three-legged, hairless dog named Happy. Their home was a squared-log home with white chinking. A generator in the back yard provided their electricity. Wally, Alvin and Happy were glad whenever our family dropped by and the routine was always the same. They greeted us at the backdoor. Wally would yell at Happy to shut-up and Alvin to get the door and let us in. We'd follow them through a cleared path on the porch (walking around any sick, baby calves that might be there), past the old cook-stove in the kitchen with a cast-iron frying pan of cold bacon grease, and into the sitting room. The sitting room had a pull-string light with a foil pie pan underneath the bulb. Candy orange slices, orange circus peanuts, chocolate covered cherries, or toasted coconut marshmallows sat on the oilcloth covered table beside the newspapers, magazines, and a tin of Wally’s asthma medicine. He wheezed really bad.
Wally always took his seat in the green leather rocking chair while Alvin sat in a straight-backed chair by the table. Dad would draw a chair next to Wally and visit with him about cows and cattle prices and the neighbors. We kids sat near Alvin, who never said a word. He had red rimmed eyes that always looked sad. Occasionally Alvin would bashfully nod when Wally said something to him, and sometimes he even smiled, but most of the time he just sat there, painfully shy. We sat equally as quiet. At some point in the visit Wally would remind Alvin to give us candy so he would carefully pass around the candy of the day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened on this Christmas Eve visit, it was pretty much like the many other visits we made to them, but when I think of Christmas Past, I think of our visit to Wally and Alvin and the horses . . . and how glad they were to see us.
Christmas Present will bring everyone together this year. We've rented a home half way between here and Seattle where we will celebrate. The home has enough rooms so that sleeping babies can sleep and waking babies can play, with a sledding hill and an indoor pool nearby. It sounds like a perfect place for five little people two years old and under, and ten big people 25 years plus . . . we can hardly wait to see each other.
Christmas Yet to Come is only in my imagination, but judging from Christmas Past and Christmas Present the biggest part of Christmas Yet to Come will be the gathering and . . . being real glad to see everyone.
I imagine the shepherds, angels, Mary, and Joseph were all really glad to finally see the Savior on that first Christmas. There had been a lot of anticipation building, people had waited 4,000 years for Him to come. It's been 2,000 years since that incredible night and now we anxiously wait for His return. I wonder how we'll celebrate when He comes again? What songs will we sing*? What foods will we bake? What colors will we decorate with? I'm not sure, but one thing I do know . . . we'll be real glad to see Him.
[*By the way. Did you know that Joy to the World was originally a Second Coming song? One day someone said, "Hey. All we have to do is change 'the Lord will come' to 'the Lord is come' and then we can have one more carol in the hymnal to sing before Christmas. Next time you sing it, think of it as a Second Coming song and see if it doesn't make more sense.]