Since I am starting this blog on Christmas Eve, I am going to tell a memory I have of one Christmas Eve.
I don’t know how old I was when I was first banished to the barn, but I know I was already in school because the kids at school would tease me about smelling like the barn animals and poop.
I remember one Christmas Eve in particular. I was between 6 and 8 years old. My teacher in school had read a story to my class about how the animals were able to talk at Midnight on Christmas Eve because the animals in the stable where Jesus was born kept Him warm with their breaths. The story said, That God remembered this, and every Christmas Eve at the stroke of mid-night animals were able to talk. It was God saying thank you to the animals.
I wanted to hear my barn friends speak to me on Christmas Eve like the story said. I believed they would too.
I remember waiting for the stroke of midnight. I would know it was midnight by the sound of the Church bell which rang every hour somewhere in the distance. I remember this particular Christmas Eve sitting on a hay-bale, wrapped up in my Cinderella sleeping bag , watching, the barn animals. All the stuffing was long gone from the sleeping bag. It was ragged, torn and stained. I had learned that getting under the hay was very warm, and that the sleeping bag kept the hay from causing my skin to itch.
It was cold in the barn. It’s cold in Pennsylvania in December. But, I couldn’t get under the hay. Not yet. I couldn’t miss one word of what my barn friends had to say.
As I sat listening for the church bell in the distance to tell us it was midnight, I wondered what my friends, the barn animals would say. Unlike Cleo the animals were never cruel to me. Unlike Lou, the animals didn’t want things from me that hurt me. I day dreamed about what the horse I liked to ride, Candy, would say. Candy was a brown and white paint. Then there was Chestnut stallion named Storm, the milk cow name Sally, the Bull named Joseph, and all the other cows and horses in the barn. What about that old Sheep dog in the curled up in the corner? His name was Blackie. I pictured, Blackie having a deep voice like his bark. I wondered what he would talk about. There was a little brown, black and white mutt, I called Baby. Baby was a quiet, sweet dog. She loved being petted and slept with me. I imagined her voice would be quiet. I wondered what the barn-full of feral cats would have to say. I had made friends with the kittens, and they were tame. The older cats, and Mama cat, in particular, still didn’t trust me. I would tell mama cat, that she was pretty, and that I wouldn’t hurt her. Then she would trust me. I just knew it.
I couldn’t wait for that church bell to ring. I was so very excited. I started asking the animals questions. I told them they could answer me when the church bell rang.
Suddenly, I heard the bell ringing in the distance. I jumped to my feet, ran to the horse stalls. The horse stalls were on my side of the barn. If I did miss what my barn friends said, I would have to wait a whole year, until the next Christmas Eve before we could speak to each other again.
The bell tones faded away.
The horses didn’t speak.
I ran over to Sally. She was chewing her cud.
Certainly, Joseph the bull would have a lot to say. He was always snorting in his pen. I ran to his pen. He was chomping on hay.
Joseph wasn’t speaking either.
Tears were streaming down my cheeks by then. Hot tears. Brokenhearted. None of my friends spoke.
Then I felt something soft against my leg. It was one of the cats I had tamed by playing with when she was a kitten. I had named her Missy. Missy was looking up at me.
I thought she was going to talk to me. She did but instead of a human voice, she mewed and rubbed against my other leg. Crying with disappointment, I went back and sat down hard on the same hay bale I had used as a chair earlier.
Missy hopped up, purring she took her place on my lap. I knew I should get under the warm hay, because it was cold, but I just couldn’t do that. Not yet. I sat there, straining to hear my friends speak. Maybe they just needed more time since they could only talk once a year.
The barn was very quiet. No one spoke. The only sound was Sally chewing her cud, Joseph snorting from time to time, the occasional sound of a horses hoof as they changed positions in their stalls, and Missy’s soft purr.
I shivered as the night became colder. Wrapping myself tighter in the worn out sleeping bag, I finally made my bed under the hay.
The sun rose Christmas morning.
My barn friends never spoke.
I’m a grown now. Well past the age of childhood fairy-tales and dreams. But yet, I catch myself each Christmas Eve looking at my cats and hoping this is the Christmas they speak. Hoping that this is the Christmas that the world will be set right.