A Horse for Christmas


By Jane D. Brown

As the holiday season unfolds, I am reminded of the only time I was disappointed on Christmas morning.

In 1962, when I was 12 years old, the only presents I and my two siblings found under the tree were a big black water bucket, a book for each of us, and the predictably irrelevant presents from relatives and family friends — pecans and dates from an older cousin who lived in Arizona and black tea and lychee nuts from Mom’s Chinese friends in New York.

Although well-trained to be appreciative for even small gifts, we couldn’t disguise our distress. That year the three of us had agreed that all we wanted was a horse. My twin sister Judi and I had been taking riding lessons in pony club for the last three summers, we had bought our own riding boots and hard hats, and now all we needed was a horse.

We even had signed a written contract which promised Pop and Mom that we would be responsible for feeding and watering and for fixing the fence and cleaning the stall and they would never have to step foot in the barn.

To add to our misery that Christmas morning, after the obligatory oatmeal, Pop suggested that we go with him to deliver a few Christmas gifts. We tried to beg off but he insisted.

Mom and Pop chatted in the front seat of our white Ford Falcon station wagon, while the three of us stared out the windows in the backseat, wishing it were some other Christmas Day. We stayed in the car while Pop and Mom dropped off their gifts.

Each time they got back in the car we said, “Can we go home now?”  We didn’t want to get out of the car even when Pop suggested that we stop at Mr. Henderson’s farm. Usually we would jump at the chance because Mr. Henderson raised horses. We said, “No, please, not today!” But Pop insisted.

We tried to be nice as Mr. Henderson began to show us some of his horses that knew tricks, like how to count to five by tapping a hoof, but mostly we just wanted to go home.

When Mr. Henderson brought out a dappled Palomino we all said he was beautiful but declined the offer to get on his back.

Even when Pop and Mom said in unison, “Merry Christmas!” we didn’t get what was going on.

It was only when Pop said, “This horse is your Christmas present!” did we understand the morning’s charade.

Pop, the master of delayed gratification, the prankster with a twinkle in his eye. Teaching us a lesson about desire and gratitude with just a twist of torture. I’m still surprised that Mom went along with the subterfuge, because she was much more about our everyday happiness than Pop. She knew in this case there would be a happy ending.

This holiday season I hope for similar happy endings for the children in our community – maybe not a horse in every house, but at least a warm coat, nutritious food and caring adults.

I know now that I was lucky to have parents who had the resources to even consider getting us a horse for Christmas. Unfortunately, many children in our community are not in such fortuitous circumstances. Let’s do all we can to help these children’s dreams come true, too.

We may help by giving to some of the many local nonprofits who work diligently to make sure all our children thrive. Here are four that deserve our support this holiday season. If you have other favorites, please tell us about them in the comments below. 

The Christmas House, a Chapel Hill tradition of the Chapel Hill Service League since 1950, provides coats, toys and books to more than 800 children in our community each year. You can send a donation or donate a book or put a gift at the Wish Tree inside Carr Mill Mall. You can also buy a wished-for book at 15% discount and donate it at Flyleaf Books.

TABLE delivers food and nutrition education to children in Orange County.

Voices Together offers a music therapy model to improve social/emotional learning, communication and self-advocacy in children on the Autism spectrum.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation awards grants for promising innovative education practices, provides students with additional academic support and growth opportunities and offers teachers and staff financial assistance for professional development.

Thank you!  Happy holidays!

Share This Article

Scroll down to make a comment.

4 Comments on "A Horse for Christmas"

  1. Interfaith Council for Social Services confronts poverty and builds community. In 1963, a group of seven local women united their volunteer efforts to address the conditions of poverty in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. More than five decades later, IFC continues its mission to confront the causes and respond to the effects of poverty in our community. With a network of 6,000 members, residents, volunteers, and donors, IFC is the primary non-profit provider of social safety net services in Orange County and the only provider of shelter services.

  2. Many thanks, Andrea, important addition, for sure!

  3. Consider a donation to The Boys & Girls Club on Craig Street in Chapel Hill. This program provides children from K-12 an after school program that helps them with homework, good character development and healthy life styles for some of the most impoverished children in our community.
    The results are astounding: all our kids graduate to the next grade, do not get in trouble in school or in the community and none of the girls get pregnant.
    This BGC, with your support, gives these kids a chance. Please make your donation through the web sit: Boys & Girls Clubs of Durham and Orange Counties: Donate or send a check to BGCDOC, PO Box 446, Durham, NC 27702 AND THANKS!!!🦯

  4. Another excellent suggestion. An impressive, important program.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.