I grew up on a horse farm in North Carolina. Every Christmas Eve, my brother and I would stand on the back porch, after dark, and cock our ears toward the horse barn.
The barn was within earshot of the house. On a quiet night, you could hear the horses munching hay and moving quietly in their stalls. But that’s not what we were listing for.
Instead, our rapt 10 and 12 year old years strained to hear the voices some fairy tale told us we might hear.
The story went that, on Christmas Eve, all the animals in the barn – horses, roosters, goats, whatever – would talk about their owners. They’d say if the owners had been good to them. Taken care of them properly. Or overworked them and put them up hot.
My brother and I would stand there, in our pajamas shivering in the cold December night. Straining our ears for word of how we’d treated our horses. Was Snowflake, the pony he and I had each chipped in $25 to buy, telling Chutney the barn cat how my brother and I had thrown rocks at the bee hives? Was Milwaukee, the palammino, putting in a good word with Queenie, the grey mare, that he’d seen us two young boys nursing a baby bird back to life?
We stood on that oak porch, side by side, young ears straining, to catch the verdict.
I never heard what the animals in the barn were saying about us. I told myself then, like I do now 40 years later, that the only reason I didn’t hear is because they were speaking in low, hushed tones. Just like our folks did around Christmas Eve.
I still want that fairy tale to be true.
I wish you and all your critters a Merry Christmas Eve. Oh and keep your ears open tonight….