Johnny knocked on Scott’s door then peeked inside, “Hey Scott, can I talk to you?”
“Sure.” Scott wondered at Johnny’s shyness, it was so unlike his brother. Scott sat on the side of the bed and motioned for Johnny to sit in the chair.
“Uhm…well…okay, I need some help with this Christmas stuff.” Johnny finally admitted.
“I see brother, and just what help do you need?” Scott wasn’t about to laugh he knew Johnny had probably never experienced the typical Christmas. This was not a time for humor at Johnny’s expense.
With his head bowed Johnny whispered, “Just explain it to me, it’s not like the Posadas in Mexico, I’m not sure what I’m supposed…”
Johnny sat in the chair and waited for Scott to explain, he knew his big brother wouldn’t humiliate or ridicule him.
“What do you want to know?” Scott waited for the first question.
Johnny sighed and tried to organize his thoughts. “First, why all this decorating stuff, Teresa has ribbons, and pine branches all over the place. Don’t get me wrong it smells good but the needles make a hell of a mess.”
“Well it makes the house festive, pine is used because when all the other trees lose there leaves the pine stays green. Some say it is a symbol of eternity, and yes it does smell good.”
“Okay I guess, how about this mistletoe stuff Teresa hangs in the entry? She and Maria are always grabbing me for a kiss. Don’t make sense, course don’t mind kissin them, but why?
Scott smiled, he knew there were many ladies, young and old, who would love to catch his brother under the mistletoe. “Its tradition a kiss is required.”
“That’s it, it’s required?” Johnny was hoping for more of an answer.
Scott shrugged, “Yes, tradition.” Scott smiled at the look on Johnny’s face.
Johnny shook his head, not much of a reason in his opinion.
“How about the Christmas tree, seems silly to cut a tree, drag it in the house, hang stuff on it, and then what do you do with a dead tree?
Scott struggled to keep from laughing poor Johnny really didn’t get Christmas.
“Well? How about the tree?” Johnny asked again.
“Just like the mistletoe and pine boughs the tree is from Druid tradition, a symbol of eternity.”
“Tradition again, and who the hell are the Druids, never heard of that tribe. They ain’t from around here.” Johnny was getting frustrated and thought, ‘Maybe I can sneak out to the North pasture line shack till this Christmas thing blows over.’
“The Druids were an ancient people in Great Britain, they used the mistletoe and the tree in their ceremonies.” Scott wondered if there was an easier way to explain this to Johnny.
“Okay so why hang all that sh…stuff on the tree?”
The ornaments, stuff, are items that have some significance to the family. Some are from Scotland that Murdoch brought from his home, some are…were my mother’s from her childhood. Murdoch told me a few are from your mother and your childhood.”
Surprised Johnny didn’t know what to say about this information. Some of the stuff was his mama’s and his, when he was a baby. He wondered why Murdoch kept them it couldn’t be a good memory for the ol’ man.
Just when Scott thought Johnny was done…
“Okay Scott, now about presents, what do I do about them? Am I supposed to buy something for everybody? Teresa keeps asking me what I am getting for you and Murdoch. How the hell am I supposed to know? Are you goin’ to tell me what to get you? Murdoch hasn’t said anything.” Johnny was completely confused and Boston wasn’t as much help as he’s hoped.
“The gift is personal, if we tell you what to get it won’t be a surprise. You are supposed to figure out what the recipient might like.” Scott was pleased with this answer but the look on Johnny’s face said his brother was not.
“What the hell is a recipient?”
“The person receiving the gift.”
“Oh, so I’ve got to guess what ya’ll want?”
“Yes…that’s it?” Johnny was ready to head to the North pasture.
“Johnny the gift isn’t important, just being together as a family is what Christmas is all about.” Scott watched Johnny for his reaction but Johnny just sat there and looked totally confused. Scott continued the explanation, “Johnny, this is our first Christmas together as a family.” Scott waited, nothing so he continued, “I’m sure Murdoch considers this Christmas to be very special and just being together the best Christmas gift he could ever receive.” Scott waited and hoped Johnny understood.
“Did you get Murdoch a gift?” Johnny shyly asked.
“Yes and one for Teresa, Maria, and Jelly. I even got one for you.” Scott realized his mistake when he saw Johnny’s jaw drop.
“I don’t…” Johnny was shocked, he needed to get busy and figure out some gifts. This family stuff and Christmas is hard, the North pasture was looking better by the minute.
“Johnny it’s alright you don’t have to…” before Scott could finish his sentence Johnny was up and out the door. Scott shook his head, what is that boy thinking?
Christmas Morning at Lancer
Johnny was exhausted from not enough sleep, he had tossed and turned all night worrying about the day.
He slowly sat on the side of the bed and rubbed his face, “I’m in hell. It’s payback for Madrid.”
“Get up Johnny, breakfast is ready.” Scott called as he passed the closed door and headed for the kitchen. He hoped his little brother hadn’t cracked under the pressure and headed for the North pasture as he threatened.
‘His older, wiser, and more handsome brother’ wasn’t any help, said he had it figure it out on his own. “Thanks Boston.” He grumbled as he grabbed his discarded pants.
Well he had finally figured out what gifts he would give everyone, but he was worried that they weren’t from some store.
He finished dressing and was shaving when he heard the firm knock. The ‘tune caller’ announced ‘breakfast was ready and get a move on.’
Time to face the music, he headed for the kitchen. His stomach was rolling and he was sure the minute he tried to eat he would be outside throwing up in the bushes.
He, Johnny, had been informed that breakfast and lunch would be served in the kitchen however the formal evening meal would be in the great room. Guests were expected later in the afternoon and Johnny was to be on his best behavior. Scott sure liked to use a lot of words just to say where they were goin’ to eat, people are coming, and be good.
Maria and Teresa had been cooking like crazy so it was going to be a fancy layout. Johnny had managed to snitch some cookies while the ladies were busy. When he tried to get away with one of the tamales Maria caught him and now he had her handprint on his butt.
Satisfied he would meet Murdoch and Scott’s orders about appearance Johnny headed for the kitchen, ‘let ‘er buck’.
Breakfast was over too fast for Johnny
and they were headed for the tree and gifts.
The packages were wrapped in colorful paper and bows, however Johnny’s were not under the tree because they were not wrapped. They would be passed out after the other gifts were opened.
Everyone, but Johnny, enjoyed opening their gifts, there were lots of ohs, ahs, thanks, and how did you know? Johnny was amazed to see how fancy and expensive some of the gifts were, he was getting more nervous as each gift was opened. He had second thoughts about his gifts, and wished he could sneak out but the ol’ man and big brother were watching him like hawks.
At last the tree was clear of packages with paper and bows strewn about the floor.
Johnny cleared his throat, “I have some things…gifts…but they ain’t fancy store bought…so…”
Scott took pity on Johnny and felt the need to rescue him, “Johnny, remember it’s the thought that counts.”
‘Hope you’re right Boston.’ Johnny silently prayed.
Johnny stood and walked behind the tree where he had hidden his gifts. With his hand behind his back he walked to Teresa, “This was mama’s, I always liked it and…if you don’t like it…” he handed the beautiful shawl to Teresa.
Her eyes filled with tears, “I love it Johnny, thank you.”
“If you like it why are your crying?” Sometimes Johnny just didn’t understand women.
“Not sad tears…” Teresa wiped her eyes then kissed Johnny’s cheek.
Murdoch recognized it as the shawl he had given Maria and he swallowed the lump in his throat.
The next gift was for Murdoch, Johnny handed him a cloth napkin. Surprised he took the gift and opened the napkin, inside was the Ring. Shocked, Murdoch looked at his son, “Do you the history of this ring?” He knew Johnny wore it and how much it seemed to mean to him.
“No, mama wore it, she said it was a heirloom or something. When she died I took it.” Johnny was surprised at his father’s reaction to the simple item.
“It’s a heirloom but not from your mother’s side, this was my grandfather’s ring handed down to my father, and then to me. After your mother left I couldn’t find the ring but never imagined she had taken it.” Murdoch put the ring on his left hand and smiled at Johnny, “I didn’t want to say anything to you about it, I wasn’t sure if you knew it’s history. Thank you son.”
Johnny felt overwhelmed, he looked at Scott and saw him mouth, “Very nice Johnny.” At this Johnny relaxed and little and went back to the tree.
Scott watched Johnny approach him, hand behind his back again. Johnny handed Scott braided horsehair reins, “The hair’s from Barranca’s main and tail.”
“Johnny, you made this? It’s beautiful. Thank you.” Scott was amazed and the workmanship.
“Yeah, well I’ve been working on it for awhile and was going to surprise you with it. Guess this Christmas thing worked out okay.” Johnny grinned at his brother.
Next was Jelly, Johnny handed him an envelope. Everyone waited as Jelly opened the letter then began laughing. “You better believe it boy, I’ll let you know when.” He stuffed the letter in his pocket.
“Well?” Teresa asked, “Aren’t you going to tell us what you got?
“This rascal is givin’ me a day off, he’s gonna to all my chores for the day. How about that?” Jelly rubbed his beard like he thinking about what he would do on that day.
Maria was next and Johnny knew this gift was something Maria would like as he handed out another napkin wrapped gift. When she opened it she smiled and wiggled her finger at him, “Nino!” She held up a hand carved wooden spoon with the name Maria surrounded by flowers carved into the handle.
“Since you broke the last one when you smacked my as…backside figured I owed ya one.”
Murdoch laughed, “Looks good and sturdy, Maria, should hold up under several hearty smacks.”
Maria smacked her hand several times while looking at Johnny, “Si Patron, this will be good for cooking and for smacking a naughty nino.”
Everyone was laughing at Johnny expression, and he was starting to doubt his choice for Maria’s gift.
“Gracias niño.” Maria kissed his cheek then headed for the kitchen to try out her new spoon.
It had been a long day for Johnny with the gift giving, and then there was the supper with Sam and Val. Maria had gone all out and fixed some of Johnny’s favorite foods. Poor Scott thought he would try a few new dishes and had to down several glasses of milk to put out the fire.
Relieved that the day was over an exhausted Johnny stretched out on the floor at his favorite spot in front of the fireplace.
As Johnny watched his family enjoying a quiet evening together he realized that Christmas was good.
He was home, home was the best gift. Johnny fell into a relaxed sleep knowing he was safe.