Every year around this time we hear a lot of complaints about the commercialization of Christmas and the downplaying of the significance of this wonderful feast day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Nowadays it’s not even called Christmas in our public schools, instead it’s called something like “Winter Holidays.” Go into a store and they don’t say Merry Christmas anymore, instead it’s now “Happy Holidays.” It seems that people are frightened to death they might offend somebody. Suddenly, paying homage to God is offensive.
The emphasis now is on gift giving, and it’s a trap we all fall into because we want our kids to have happy memories of this holiday spent around the family Christmas tree.
I can understand that. While we recognized the religious significance of Christmas, the memory that stands out in my mind is what happened when I was ten years old. In those days, my father had a ranch where he raised horses. His ranch – the second one he owned – Yearling Row II – was in Malibu Lake. Every Saturday he’d pick me up at my mother’s house in Beverly Hills and take me out to the ranch.
At the ranch he raised yearlings for sale at Santa Anita and Del Mar every year and some of Ronald Reagan’s horses did very well at the race tracks. In those days there was nothing I wanted more than to have a horse of my own, a wish I never expected to have fulfilled.
A couple of months before Christmas my father told me that the father of a young boy about my age was going to give his son a horse for Christmas. The father wanted to keep the horse at our ranch and have us train him so the boy could ride it.
My dad asked, “Is that alright with you?” and through clenched teeth I muttered it was. I was insanely jealous of this kid who was going to get a horse and I wasn’t. I wanted to ask my dad “What about me”?’ but I went along with it.
Out came this Palomino horse and every Saturday when I went to the ranch with my dad, before we went swimming we would go into the ring and my dad would put a rope on the horse and put me up in the saddle and we would go in circles around the ring, getting the horse ready to be ridden by a young boy. I did this every Saturday throughout October, November and early December; and every week I got closer to the horse I named Rebel, and resented the boy who was going to get him for Christmas.
A couple of days before Christmas my dad called and said he wanted me to go with him to the ranch on Christmas Eve because he was going to give the horse to the boy and he knew I’d want to say goodbye to Rebel. I sat on the sidewalk in front of my Mom’s house waiting for my Dad to pick me up, crying my eyes out. I cried all the way to the ranch. When we got there Dad told me to go out to the barn and say goodbye to Rebel because the boy’s father will be there any minute.
When I went into the stable I saw that both upper and lower doors of the stall where Rebel was kept were closed. I undid the door latch on the upper door and this freshly groomed Palomino stuck his head out to me and around his neck was a big red ribbon holding a Christmas card which said “Merry Christmas Michael, Dad.”
That night, as I lay in bed I couldn’t wait to find out what other presents I was going to get, so around 1o’clock I sneaked out of my room and looked downstairs where the tree was, and I saw my mother carrying a brand new saddle and bridle gear to put under the tree.
Mom and Dad had figured out that he would do the horse and she would do the saddle and tack. From that day on until Rebel died years later we were inseparable. I even took him away with me to summer camp. He was a gift that kept giving.
©2003 Mike Reagan. You must contact us if you would like to print this column in your publication. Mike’s column is distributed exclusively by: Cagle Cartoons, Inc. Cari Dawson Bartley Cari@cagle.com, (800) 696-7561