Merry Christmas

Yesterday my brother, Kelley, in Houston sent me a beautiful image that really took me back to Christmas past.  Typically all our families gathered on Christmas Eve at our old family ranch that had been homesteaded by my great grandfather in the mountains of western Montana.   All of my cousins, consisting of eight boys and one girl, would play reindeer games in the old barnyard as the darkness fell upon the mountains that surrounded us while we watched to the sky for the approach of Santa.  We would play on the old scrap metal pile where my grandfather heaped pieces from the tractors and farming equipment parts which he recycled and scavenged from throughout the cultivation season.  We build snow caves and forts in the snow banks from where the snow had been plowed at the edge of the old barnyard and licked the snowflakes that fell from the dark sky to our burning cheeks.  I loved to sing and would get all my cousins to gather in the center of the barnyard about the old concrete watering trough and sing Silent Night or Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I remember feeling so happy, being filled with awe and wonder as we waited in anticipation.  Though most of the families were poor, we had no sense of want, because our families were filled with joy, just to have each other and to gather and share such times together.  We did not get much for Christmas and looking back I know my parents went to great sacrifice to give us the few things that would really delight on us on Christmas morn.  It seemed there were always a pair of footed pajamas for each of us boys, though the colors were all different they all matched.  Then we each got one gift each from Santa.  Often time mine was some sort of craft gift like Pom-Pom Pets from which I could make old looking creatures from yarn, or paint by numbers, or a new set of brightly colored markers. My brothers typically got the Tonka’s, tractors and building kits.  Somehow my parents recognized my creative nature and I somehow always ended up with something that captivated my creative spirit.  My mind raced with excitement.

Though my family no longer gets together for Christmas anymore, my father and Norma go south to Yuma, Arizona and my brothers all have their own families. But I still go out a remote ranch in those mountains in western Montana, actually not to far from where I grew up, passing our family ranch along the way to spend Christmas.  This time with my buddies from the Gay Rodeo Association.  It still becomes a Cowboy Christmas wearing boots and wranglers, delighting in great food and just sharing with close friends.  This year feels it is one of my greatest years of accomplishment.  I have everything I could ever have wanted and my heart feels content and some point in the evening I will slip out to their barnyard and gaze to the dark heavens and step back to that simple time and think what an amazing heritage I have to be in this remarkable place.