If Wishes Were Horses

If Wishes Were Horses

By Lori Jean Ness

            “Oh, Mom, isn’t he beautiful?”  Eight-year-old Kim trembled with excitement.  “I’ve prayed every night for a horse for Christmas…and here he is!”

            “He” was an Appaloosa that had galloped up our lane, nostrils flaring, before stopping at the barn door.

            My husband, Bob led him into a stall and slapped the muscular shoulder.  “I bet this fella belongs to Sue Martin.” he said.  “This morning, at the feed store, she mentioned getting a barrel racer.”

            Kim vigorously shook her head, insisting.  “He’s my horse.  God sent him!”

            Refusing to be torn even for supper from “her” horse, Kim remained in the barn, currying the mud-splattered coat with a 5 cent comb bought at an auction.

            I finally got Sue on the phone.  She’d been driving around in search of her missing steed.  Soon, she arrived with a horse trailer.  “‘Silver Dollar’ just got spooked by a neighbor’s dog,” Sue explained.  “Thanks for taking care of him.”

            Kim stood by silently as the clop of hooves on the ramp drummed an end to her dream.

            I put by arm around the narrow shoulders in the faded pink parka.  “I’m sorry, Kim.  But, even if someone did give us a horse for free, we couldn’t afford to feed it.”

            Kim shrugged me off, weary of hearing how the drought a summer ago had left us barely able to make ends meet.

            Later, as she pushed around vegetables in reheated soup, I noticed a tear splash into the bowl.  We sat alone in the kitchen while Bob finished chores.

            “I know you’re disappointed,” I soothed.  “Maybe next year…”

            Kim stirred her untasted soup.  “I need a horse now.  You don‘t have to buy me any more presents for the rest of my life.  I’ll get a job to pay for his hay–”

            “Kim, we can’t afford new shoes for you–and a horse needs two pair!”

            She ignored by feeble attempt at humor.  “Christmas is supposed to be when you get what you want,” Kim sniffed.  “And I want a horse!”

            I sighed.  “You have the wrong idea, darling.  Christmas is when we celebrate God’s gift to us–His Son.  And the best way to do that is by giving to others.”

            Kim stared into her bow.  Platitudes were useless, I knew…at her age, she needed an example she could relate to.

            I touched her hand.  “For my seventh birthday,” I confided, “I wanted just one thing, more than anything in the world.”

            No response.  I pressed on valiantly.  “It was a china tea set decorated with violets–a complete set with teapot, cups, sugar bowl and creamer.”

            Grudgingly, Kim queried, “Did your parents get it for you?”

            “They planned to.  But then my little brother got sick, and his medicine was very expensive.”

            Kim scowled.  I continued.  “Later, an aunt gave me $5 for a present.  I was thrilled, because I could buy the set!”

            Uninterested Kim squirmed.  “I’m not hungry, Mom.  May I be excused?”

            “You know what, though?” I went on, ignoring her.  “I didn’t buy it.”

            Kim stopped halfway out of her chair.  “Why?  I thought you wanted it more than anything in the whole world.”

            I nodded.  “When my dad took me to the store, I picked up that set and imagined pouring tea for my dolls.”  Even now, I could still recall the thrill of clutching that box close to me.  “Then I saw a baseball glove and remembered Andy lying in bed at home.”

            Sinking back, Kim really looked at me for the first time.  “You bought the glove instead?  Did Andy like it?”

            My vision blurred and I swallowed hard, once more engulfed by the anxiety and grief of that long-ago summer.  “Andy never got well enough to play, Kim.  But he slept with that glove in him arms.  That made me happier than any tea set ever could.”

            I saw the sparkle of tears in Kim’s eyes before she darted out of the kitchen, leaving me to my memories…and the hope she understood the message I’d tried to convey.

            On Christmas morning, Kim didn’t once mention horses.  She thanked us for her new parka and matching scarf.

            “Open this next, Mom.”  Eyes shining, Kim placed a big box in my lap.

            I ripped away the tissue paper, then almost gasped.  In the box was a child’s china tea set decorated with violets—complete with teapot, cups, sugar bowl and creamer.

            Bob gave me a puzzled look as tears rolled down my cheeks.  “Kim dragged me to 10 stores till we found that.  And now you’re crying?”

            I held the box close, exchanging a loving look with our daughter.  “They’re tears of joy,” I explained.  “Kim gave me what I wanted more that anything in the whole world.”

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