Be careful what you wish for this Christmas

Published 12:57 pm Wednesday, December 21, 2016

My mom likes to tell of Depression-era years when her Christmas hopes maxed out at an orange or two. It’s hard for a girl who was raised with Malibu Barbie under her tree to relate, but I try.  It helps that I, too, have a Christmas in my own pool of Yule memories that was a bit lacking.

It was the one with the horse.

The year was 1976, a magical one for 10-year-olds with any sense of the times. I had a bicentennial dress hanging in my closet to wear every other Sunday and Nadia Comaneci’s recent string of 10s to inspire my gymnastics efforts. Best of all, Amy Carter – someone who shared not only my need for orthodontic treatment but a peculiar cowlick in her cut-straight-across-her-forehead bangs as well – was going to live in the White House.

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With everything so right in my world, I went for it. My “All I want for Christmas” refrain cranked up to unprecedented levels right after Thanksgiving, with me actually daring to ask for a horse – the living, breathing, lots of eating kind. My parents, surprisingly enough, were an easy sell.

“You want a horse? We can do that. Why not?” was the jist of their response.

I should point out here that this “go for it” approach never worked for me again. It especially did not work the Christmas I wanted the ruby red two-seat, mid-engine, four-cylinder Pontiac Fiero with the stick shift and hidden headlamps. (By the way, Dad, I just read on Wikipedia that Fieros made Car and Driver magazine’s 10 best list in 1984. Thought you’d want to know.)

Looking back, I think the positive response to my horse request was just part of a natural progression of our family dynamics at the time. My parents, in a Green Acresish sort of move, had two years prior transplanted us from suburbia Memphis to a plot of land in the wilds of North Mississippi which, over the course of time, came to include a barn, fences, and a smattering of black Angus cows. I’m guessing they saw a horse as the next step in our assimilation to all things rural.

No one in my gifting circle seemed to be concerned that I had never once ridden a horse. Hadn’t touched one either, or probably even stood within 10 feet of one, for that matter. But hey, I was getting a horse, and it was pretty great to be able to tell my friends about my stunning Christmas coup d’état. (A live animal trumps any toy when you’re 10.)

So December rolled on, bringing with it the anticipated equine and another surprise of the highest kind — a three-week extension of my school break. (This is completely true, by the way. Even 40 years of fuzzy memories cannot distort such a fact. The Senatobia City School District was experiencing some sort of natural gas shortage.)

Anyway, the extended break meant: a) I had three extra weeks to watch Gilligan’s Island reruns, b) I’d be able to see Amy Carter walk in the inaugural parade, and c) I had time to figure out a way to get rid of my horse.

That’s right. I didn’t like the horse. I’m sure she was fine as far as Pintos go, but she was a horse. I decided after my one time in the saddle (and my brother’s one time in the saddle when she bucked him off) that I didn’t like horses so much.

Even when they come with a new bridle, bit, leather saddle and grooming brush.

And somewhere along this trajectory my parents finally decided that this particular piece of the Green Acres puzzle wasn’t going to fit (ever), so we said good-bye to Rebel. (My brothers were both in college in Oxford.)

I do not recall getting a replacement present.

So while my mom’s Depression-era orange stories can certainly speak to today’s Christmas culture, in hindsight (pun intended), I believe my horse saga has a moral worth noting as well: be careful what you wish for.

You just might get it.

Wesson resident Kin Henderson is a freelance writer who writes for  The Daily Leader. Contact her at