Christmas Stew



It didn’t happen on Christmas, not even close, but the memory came to me today and made me laugh as I awaited my family to gather around our hearth for the beloved holiday.  Each autumn at our ranch near Ventura California farmers would bring truckloads of overripe tomatoes to the surrounding horse ranches to feed the herds lest the vegetables went to waste.  This was a lovely gesture but it invariably caused a Pharaonic level curse of houseflies.  I’m talking clouds of the annoying buggers.  I became tired of doing the dirty work of clearing the house of the pests.  So with a stroke of genius I enlisted my seven year old daughter Bai to do the task for me.  I thought I could entice her to perform her duty with gusto if I made it fun and profitable.  So I gave her a fly gun with a swatter on a string.  I offered her a dime for every fly subdued.  That would certainly exceed the minimum wage given the extent of the deluge of pests.  Well. as predicted she went at it with determination and glee. When I asked her how she was doing she said she was up to “about” a thousand.  My own daughter, thought I, inflating her work output and trying to pull the wool over her old Pop’s eyes.

“Bai,” said I, “I love you but I don’t believe you.  You’ll have to show me the fly bodies.”  Thus ended her interest in the project.

The Christmas mornings when Bai and Viena were young were pure joy.  The finely decorated tree and presents in front of the fire roaring in the fireplace, the kids holding the squealing pot belly pig in their arms swinging her back and forth pretending she was a living electric guitar.  Now that was family fun.  The horses, the cats, the dogs, the parrots, it was a mini Noah’s Ark without the rain.  Sure there had been challenges, sorrows and loss, but no trace of regret surfaced on such days as those.

Today is one of those joyful  days as we gather with our daughters and grandchildren.  I’m 72 years old now with a loving wife, both of us healthy and grateful for a life filled with blessings and many overcome obstacles that never crushed our hope or spirits.  The wood stove is burning hot and bright in our Saint Helena Island log cabin with love and warmth filling the room to the rafters.  We humans seek a state of happiness in life.  And although we can never sustain joy such as I relate today precisely because we are human, it is all the more pressing that we savor the glimpses we have been granted.  May you and yours share love this Holiday Season.  May hope and fortitude prevail.