One day, my brother, sister and I were sitting in the kitchen after school when we suddenly heard our mother's horn blaring. We went out on the porch and watched as she turned into the driveway ever so slowly. We knew for her to be driving that slowly, she must either be out of gas, or have an animal in the backseat of the car.
Sure enough, as she drove past us, there was some type of animal in the backseat. We ran around the house just in time to see her drop the tailgate of the car down, and out hopped a shaggy, brown burro.
"Gabriel", as we called him for his loud blaring horn, soon became a beloved member of the family. He was cute, fun and stubborn, with a heavy emphasis on stubborn. He participated in many backyard barbeque's, and was even featured in one of our family Christmas cards.
To this day, the mere mention of the words "Family Christmas Cards" conjures up some rather unpleasant memories. As children, there was a particular time of year that we learned to dread more and more as time went by. It occurred late every year, around the middle of November, and while it may have lasted only an hour or two, to my brother, sister and I, it seemed an eternity. It was the time of year known as "family Christmas card picture taking time." My mother took pictures of us children every year while we were growing up. Fun, fun.
One year, my mother was trying to think of 'something new' for our cards. I suggested she buy them at the nearest drugstore like most people did, but no way. We had a 'tradition' to uphold. No, she thought everyone really enjoyed seeing our strained, awkward grins every year on our card. This particular year, she came up with the idea of having us pose with the newest member of our family, Gabe the burro.
So, while other children got dressed up in their best clothes, went to the nearest photography studio, and sat calmly in front of a backdrop depicting a warm, roaring fire with stockings hung by the chimney with care, we got dressed up and went down to the barn, brushed the burro, put on his new Christmas halter, and proceeded to go through two hours of torture.
My mother thought it would look nice if we took Gabe and stood in front of the corral. Gabe thought it would be nice to drag the three of us across the yard and head toward my grandmother's house. Then mother thought it would be nice if my brother knelt in from of Gabe, while my sister and I stood on either side of the temperamental burro. Gabe thought it would be better to stand on my brother while my sister and I tried to pull him off. My mother then thought it would be nice if we stood by the well house, facing into the sun, for a cheery, sunny picture for people to see in the middle of a long, cold Maine winter. Gabe thought he hated having the sun in his eyes and proceeded to throw himself over backwards, taking my brother with him. Not having much luck out in the back yard, my mother then thought it would be cute to have us standing on the porch with him. Gabe then decided it would be cute to poop on the porch, just as my mother took the picture.
She then thought if we could get him to roll up his upper lip, like he did sometimes, it would make a great picture. Gabe thought 'sure, why not', and lunged for the dog with his mouth and teeth wide open.
This proceeded on and on, with us trying to hold onto the stubborn burro, and obey our mother's order to "SMILE!" I think our Christmas card that year featured a scared Zak, kneeling in front of Gabe while trying to smile at the camera and keep an eye on the wild beast behind him, a bored, frowning Kim, who had tired of the whole thing as soon as it started, an exhausted, sweaty Christmas sweater wearing Carmen who was covered in long, brown burro hair, and one fierce looking burro, who had finally slipped off the nose band of his halter, and looked as if he was bearing down on the kneeling Zak with no good in mind.
Of course, when mother mailed this to all the relatives, everyone responded on "how big they are getting", and "what a cure burro..they must love him to pieces". I think I was fourteen that year, the year of the Burro. I know Kim, Zak, and I tried our best to talk mother out of the family Christmas card for years, but with no luck. I believe it wasn't until I was 21, that we heard the words we had been waiting so long to hear.." Okay, NO family Christmas cards this year."
|Brogan putting the Christmas poodle on the tree..|