I thought that after thirty years of being asked by my only son “So, what would you like for Christmas this year ?” or “If I give you money would it be better if you chose your own Christmas present ?” that something was really rather strange this past year. In the weeks leading up to the big day, not a word did he say, not one question did he ask about my Christmas gift preferences. Knowing that he usually felt a lot of uncertainty when shopping for my present I assumed that he had decided to skip the shopping part entirely and just slip money into a Xmas stocking. I should mention that I, on the other hand, love to shop for Christmas. Trying to decide on a really meaningful gift for family and friends, one I think they will truly enjoy, is a passion with me. Since Virginia’s Eastern Shore is home to so many artists and artisans, I always scour the Shore for some interesting art type gifts before I shift into what I think of as “high gear”. “High gear” is my annual Christmas shopping pilgrimage with a friend or two, usually to Washington DC, sometimes to New York. One of the things I love about living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia is how easy it is to get to interesting nearby areas such as Williamsburg, Richmond, Washington , Annapolis, Charlottesville, etc., as well as points north including Manhattan, Cape May, maybe even that den of iniquity, Atlantic City. This past year we made the 4 hour drive from the Eastern Shore to Washington, laser focused on unearthing some great deals over the next few days at Tyson’s Corner and treating ourselves to lunch at Neiman Marcus. Splurging by staying at the Ritz , we parked ourselves by the cozy fireplace in the evenings, toasting the season with hot toddys and cold champagne. So much fun, so little time and all too soon we were on our way home.
Still no gift questions or comments from my son. Then, on Christmas Eve, a festive dinner and presents after. And I must admit, after all of the presents were opened and he didn’t have a box or even an envelope for me that I felt rather disappointed. About 11 pm he kissed me goodby, saying that he had to leave to meet some friends. No “sorry I couldn’t find anything I thought you would really like”, no “please use this to buy something nice”. Just “Merry Christmas, Mom”. At that point my first thought was that I should have had more than one child. Although I am a firm believer that it is better to give than to receive, truth be told, I was feeling rather disappointed. Then, on Christmas morning I received a call asking if we would possibly have the time after Christmas lunch to join him at a friend’s big waterfront horse farm south of Cape Charles. We would and we did. And when I got there he said “Come look at this.” We walked into the barn and there in a stall was a beautiful grey Arabian colt, dressed in a red halter with a red Christmas bow in his mane. After 20 years since I last had a horse I was looking into the eyes of one of my sweetest Christmas presents ever… Wiley, my Christmas horse.