Beatrice by the fireplace in her home told me a story…my mum, she said, though born a city woman, believed without question that the animals spoke on Christmas Eve. “Every pet on Sonsie Farm received a special warm feed and extra treats”.
Godfrey spent 12th night with us, knowing he was welcome here, safe from his nasty Uncle Lou and beets. The two of us filled our pockets up with shortbread, and mince tarts, sneak out from the warm cottage, across the frozen mud of the yard we would head. “We knew my parents knew where we were, very young, hearts pounding, we knew that we knew they would never find us deep in the hay” (they never looked). We scoffed pastries, guzzled home-made root-beer. “If the animals spoke, we fell asleep before they did, always, without fail, every year”
Warmed by the childhood vision, I asked Beatrice of an old packet, deep in a box of letters from Godfrey. A silver party kit, from a New Years long past, horns, noise clackers, gold and silver funny hats. Beatrice sighed, my old mum bought me that. She said at fifteen I was “too old now to be sitting up waiting for the cows and goats to chat”. I was painfully shy, mum had invited loads of people to come bye.
Only Godfrey and his sister Alice came, as did Abner and Sugar Mulgrew. ” We had a wise old horse then, Jack; he needed no human voice to tell us how he felt or thought. Stamped his great hoof when told, “be still and wait”. Godfrey fitted his harness collar on, set the heavy hames straight. Jack breaking trail pulling all on the sleigh, across the farm fields , to taffy pull and bonfire on our woodlot.
My piece of taffy, lifted from the snow when cool was shaped like a heart cracked in two. Godfrey quickly ate his, before I could see how his New Year would unfold. Our good fire kept away the cold, we passed lemonade that Alice made about, sang and laughed together until hoarse. “I had no inkling Alice had spiked the lemonade until I stood up to go wee” Pitched backwards on my behind in the frozen gorse”. “The stars were so bright, sparks from the bonfire swirled above me” Abner dragged me from the bushes, in his funny hat, but swaying, not looking well stood Godfrey.
We staggered to the sleigh, I passed out in the hay.”I am going to throw up now”, is the last thing I heard Godfrey say. A wise old horse was our Jack, he refused to drink water from where the cow drank…”I awoke at dawn, face flat, still in my funny hat”. “Happy New Year tooted Alice, blowing on a horn, completely delighted with her prank”. So I kept the silver party kit, packed away with care, it was the end of my girlhood, the last taffy pull Godfrey and I would share”.
“So let us hitch the Belgian filly- young yet kind, she his eager to pull the sleigh, and calm”. Amber will gently take a carrot or apple for a treat from your palm”. Don our funny hats, bundle up warm, and break trail across the fields to a bonfire on the woodlot, for it is New Years Eve on Sonsie Farm….