All I want for Christmas is a pony.
The short note I’d written Santa was placed back on my desk by Mrs. Oliver, my third-grade teacher. It had red pen notes from her all over that read: Why do you want a pony? How will you take care of it? Will it take too much of your time? How will you help pay for all the expenses? Will you feed it and water it every day, or after a few short months, will your parents have to take care of it? Who will teach you how to ride? Will it be a forever pet, or will you have to rehome it when you are done? Please answer these questions and put more details in the next revision of your Dear Santa letter!
The red comments burned my eyes, and I turned my face toward the window overlooking the courtyard as a tear rolled down my cheek. I’d wanted a pony for as long as I could remember, and she or he would not just be a “pet.” They would be my best friend, and I would take care of him or her forever! The thoughts in my head didn’t process, and the rewrite didn’t happen. All I remember was trying to hide my paper with all the red ink from my classmates and the tears from everyone. Footsteps multiplied around the classroom as the others turned in their second drafts of their Dear Santa letters. I folded mine and slid it in my pocket, then gathered my things before the end-of-the-day bell rang.
A rush of cold air blew through my hair, and I was thankful I’d remembered my hat in my jacket pocket as I slid it on before reaching the bottom of the steps where we stood until it was safe to load up in the busses or cars to go home. Grandpa’s old red truck pulled up, and his smile welcomed me in, seeming to brush the chill inside me away.
“So, how was school?” he asked.
I only shrugged my shoulders.
Then he said, “Work, or school, can be challenging on days, but you know…tomorrow is a new day and a new day can be a do-over! Leave today in the past if needed!” He patted my leg.
I looked over at him and grinned. Leaving today behind me was a great idea.
My eyes followed the fence lines and the bare winter trees as we drove out of town. We passed cattle and horse farms and a few houses nestled together just off the road. Winter was here, so it was not the usual tractors out in the fields and even the cattle were closer to the barns for warmth and food. Then the thought of my Dear Santa letter snuck back into my thoughts. How was I going to take care of a pony in this cold weather? Would she be warm enough outside in the cold winter months? As I felt the trickle of a tear roll down my cheek, I smudged it out so grandpa wouldn’t ask.
A few days of school before winter break seemed more like a month. Snow had fallen. On the playground while other children-built snowmen, I built a snow pony and named him Penny. A penny for luck, because I would need a lot of luck getting the only thing I had on my Christmas wish list, especially since I didn’t rewrite my Dear Santa letter. Santa knew what was in my heart and what I could take care of and…
Doesn’t he know everything? I thought.
Christmas morning, and I wasn’t hopeful. But I do love when it snows on Christmas Eve, and it had snowed so much that I could hardly see out the window. Our black pasture fence was practically buried and snowflakes were frozen on the glass of the windows, exposing every detail of their one-of-a-kind shapes. What a magical sight.
“Grandpa, did you see the snow?” I asked.
“Yes, I did! Why don’t we start a new tradition and go build a snowman before breakfast and before we open our gifts?” Grandpa said as he sipped his coffee and smiled at my grandmother.
I darted to my room without a word and appeared back at the front door in a matter of minutes.
“Why don’t we build our masterpiece in the open pasture where there is more room and lots of fresh snow?” he said as we stepped out the door.
Grandpa led the way, and I started to roll the snow into more of a log shape and built the best and biggest snow pony I could.
He handed me a pony bridle and said, “Here, you might need this for your pony.”
I laughed and started to hang the bridle on the snow pony when grandpa said, “I think it will fit better on Lucky than the snow pony, don’t you?”
The feeling of blood rushing through my face warmed me suddenly, and I was puzzled not only because Grandpa knew part of the name of my make-believe pony, but he had a bridle too. Then it came clear, and the noises I heard were pony steps and the soft snorting wasn’t my grandfather. Behind the snowbank stood a beautiful dapple-gray Welsh pony that nickered a friendly greeting.
“I found your letter to Santa and mailed it out for you,” said Grandpa with a jolly old smile.
My Lucky Penny, my best friend forever!