Xmas Angel

inside the old adobe

Angel with wood stove, bar, and shotguns

The Xmas Angel saved my life again. When I needed to cry, she let me. When she needed to cry, I understood—it’s not easy living so far from her family. That’s why she was sad, along with missing her dear departed mother and dad. I was crying because I remembered my family Christmases and wanted to go back in time with a taser, wild hyenas, and the finest weed in all the land because I’d need it. Five years after she died, my mother’s ashes are in the storage unit, not buried next to Dad in Maryland like I promised. Who would come to see them, anyway? Their generation is all dead—we survivors live in Texas and New Mexico. Why drive all the way across the country to find the mower-nicked flat stones hidden in the grass and wonder where the wasted years have gone?

Oh, I’ll do it, never fear. My grandfather bought a block of cemetery plots to keep us all together in death, or did he get a “deal”? Either way, he meant well and is so remembered. Grandad told me things my father had no time for, showed me pussy-willows in the spring. The plot my father’s in—I buried the urn myself—has room for Helen, too, and once we have a home again, I’ll travel back to Maryland and dig a hole. I don’t hate these people, you understand, I only want to yell at them a little. (I’m old enough to see the blessing of the wound that shows us what we really are.) But times like Christmas, when the internet is filled with people showing off their kids and presents, awash in comforting hubbub of the holidays, are when I should probably be as far away as possible, having Christmas in a quiet cabin in the snow or on a beach where no one else speaks English. Most years, though, I end up where I am and thank God for my angel.

We’ve always done it our way, especially now that so many have passed on. Whether the house is festooned from to end to end with ornaments or minimally adorned, whether we buy cards and gifts for everyone, ourselves, or just remaining family, whether we go anywhere at all or simply have a quiet day for art and music, the time is what we make of it. The theme this year was “New Mexico.” We spent Christmas Eve together talking of the past and wrung out all the sadness. Yesterday on Christmas Day we drove fifteen minutes away to commune with the Rio Grande in the canyon. The scenery was stunning. Bright sunshine and incredible blue water. We saw Canada geese and buffleheads. A very special eagle flew into our lives, a religious experience if ever there was one. The two of us were cleansed in awe and came home high as saints. After the sun went down, we feasted on champagne and steaks, finishing off with cocoa and bizcochitos (the state cookie of New Mexico).

Possibly and most ironically, one of our best Decembers ever.

Oh, and then there’s this: as I was wrapping up this post, my sister-in-law in Minneapolis texted me that her son’s wife had just given birth to a baby girl. Congratulations to Evan and Annie, and welcome to Elnora!

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John Hamilton Farr lives at 7,000 feet in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, U.S.A. As New York Times best-selling author James C. Moore tells it, John is “a man attuned to the world who sees it differently than you and I and writes about it with a language and a vision of life that is impossible to ignore.” This JHFARR.COM site is the master writing archive. To email John, please see CONTACT INFO on About page. For a complete list of all John’s writing, photography, NFTs, and social media links, please visit JHFARR.ART  

  • garrett phipps December 26, 2017, 5:46 PM

    Beautiful piece. Glad you had such a meaningful Christmas. I too hiked the rio grande on Xmas day with my honey-great way to celebrate!

    • JHF December 26, 2017, 6:26 PM

      Thank you! Yes, I thought, “Hey, it’s Xmas and there won’t be anybody there!” Wrong, but this is still New Mexico and there was solitude for all. I’ll have a story and a photo on the eagle soon.

  • Marti Fenton Koleski December 27, 2017, 10:00 PM

    We went to the oxygen place for new tanks on Friday and it was closed for the long weekend so PQ had to stay home. Thus we had a very quite Christmas. We didn’t go near the Pueblo nor did we exchange gifts. I made a nice dinner, we had a small phony tree with lights and it was a great Christmas. Good to know, even when I don’t care about Christmas it surprises me and turns out quite pleasant. And yes, we talked about Christmas past but not in a sad way, just nice to decorate with memories sometimes and the little tree spared a real tree the fate of being chopped to bits.

    • JHF December 28, 2017, 1:56 AM

      I hear ya. We didn’t go to the Pueblo or exchange gifts, either, and we also used a little artificial tree. [See photo above.]

      We’ve had so many epic cross-country Christmas trips to visit family in the past. Hard to top heading blind into blizzards on the Interstate before cell phones and the Internet, my god. Once I had to disassemble a carburetor on the shoulder of I-35 in northern Missouri in the snow. I think it was ten degrees.

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