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As a kid growing up on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, I was well aware of my limitations. And even though Mother did her best to at least give us a few hand-me-down presents, sometimes my friends would always remind me of my place in society. So, one day after Christmas I rode away on my “new” bicycle with the torn seat and wobbly tires across the tracks to see a few of my classmates. As Robert rode down the driveway on the latest Schwinn bicycle, he remarked that my bike looked suspiciously like his old one that was donated to Goodwill. Of course I said he was mistaken, but there was no denying it when he looked under the seat and spotted “Robbie” written with a magic marker.
My only escape back then was in my dreams, which were filled with all the goodies and laced with adventure, thanks to a few James Bond movies. I modeled my life not on the seemingly inescapable and abhorrent surroundings but on that illusion. And throughout the years, each time I faced a hardship, I smiled, knowing that all I needed to do was lie down and close my eyes.
So, each Christmas, I am that wondrous kid again, and even though I achieved probably more than I deserved in this life, for at least one week, I feel the enchantment once again. You won’t find a kinder, more generous person around at that time, that is, before I revert to my Grinch-like self at the stroke of midnight on the 26th. Unfortunately, this year, the one true love of my life, a 9-yr-old Siberian Husky, was struggling for her last breaths. The three vets who had examined her seemed to question why we were trying everything to save such an old dog, but she represented much more than that to me, perhaps even a metaphor for the many times that I had struggled when the odds were against me and nobody lent a hand. So, we put her in her favorite basket with pillow and blankets and she watched us carry on with the festivities in a more muted fashion. Throughout the years we always held a Christmas Party for the three dogs complete with costumes and stockings filled with their favorite treats. Ling Ling seemed to sense this was her last Christmas as she barely held her head up and smiled at us even though we didn’t have the heart to do much celebrating. And on the 26th, right after midnight, she died in our arms.
To add further insult to injury, while we were still grieving, the following week, someone grabbed our second dog, Tongo. We have a lot of construction going on in the area and one neighbor’s dog was barbecued by a hungry group of men last year, so we feared the worst. We searched everywhere, contacted Brigitte at Animal Rescue, but not a clue as to what happened. After pretty much giving up, about ten days later we saw a message on Facebook with a picture of Tongo. Thanks to Dara Nagel of Animal Rescue, Alexandra from the International School, and her son, Christmas arrived on 15th of January in the form of a shaggy, but well-loved, dog.
And finally, after all these years, whether awake or dreaming, every day is special, but just a little bit more during Christmas.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year (belated) everyone!
Barry in Samui