by Ralph Rice
Around our Christmas table I bask in the glow from the joyful faces
of my daughters, sons, and daughters-in-law, the little ones, my wife, and her
parents. Dinner over, I ask if everyone is ready for a sled ride, and the room
erupts in a gleeful "Yes." Rounding the field at a brisk trot, with
sleigh bells ringing and a sledful of laughing youngsters, I recall a great gift
my grandparents gave me on another Christmas many years ago.Ralph Rice's
column "Reflections" appears regularly in Rural Heritage. This column
appeared in the
snow was deep and shining in the bright moonlight as we stamped the snow from
our boots in Grandma's back room. Our arms were laden with gifts and our
thoughts were filled with anticipation. My little sister and I could barely wait
to open our Christmas Eve gifts.
After placing our presents under
the tree we all gathered near the table and visited with my grandparents and my
young aunt. Grandma's kitchen was warm and wonderful. The smells of food, pies,
and cookies filled our nostrils while the kitchen stove warmed our bodies. But
we children soon grew tired of the talk in the kitchen and invented a game. We
went throughout the house in search of Christmas trees.
there was the main tree in the middle of the window in the front room, but we
found hundreds morereflections of the little decorated tree gleamed from
every mirror, window, dish, and piece of glass. The panes of the French doors
alone held nearly a hundred reflections, and I counted two more in my aunt's
eyes. We had so much fun we didn't want to quit when called to dinner. Our game
was simple, our thoughts were pure, and our time with our grandparents was
short, though we didn't know it.
After dinner and feasting on
sweet desserts, we cleared the table and moved a few chairs to the front room to
open our presents amid laughter and the celebration of the holiday. Just as we
finished cleaning up the last of the paper, sleigh bells rang out in the night.
All of us kids stopped short, telling each other to hushSanta had surely
landed on the lawn. Then Grandpa yelled in through the door to grab our coats
and come take a sled ride. We kids were a little disappointed to see it was only
Grandpa and not Santa, but we soon got over it.
I've never ridden
with Santa Claus, but I believe that night was as close as I could ever come.
The horses took us down the lane, their breath frosty in the crisp air. The moon
lit up the night like daylight, and diamonds danced on the snowdrifts. We flew
across the hayfield and past the orchard while the sound of jingling bells
filled the night. As we neared the woods, Grandpa slowed the team to a walk and
we sang "Silent Night."
I remember that evening as if
it were yesterdaythe warm smiles, the hugs, the smell of the horses, and
the pure delight on my grandparent's faces. What fun we had that Christmas Eve.
It was my last Christmas holiday with my grandparents. Two months later
they were killed in an automobile accident. I miss them still. The sounds of
hoof beats, sleigh bells, and laughter always take me back to that Christmas
long ago and remind me of the great gift my grandparents gave usthe joy in
loving each other and in enjoying life's simple pleasures.