Richard Foxx

     It had been a warm, sunny day, clear skies, the kind of day that makes you forget that Christmas is only three weeks away, forget, that is, until the sun drops behind the coastal range and the mercury goes skipping after it.  We had spent the late afternoon picking out a Christmas tree at Rodriguez’s, the only tree lot in our precious small town of Valley Center, and BW (aka JoAnn) and I slid down off the tailgate of the red truck where we had been perched, talking with the owner’s sons.  I reached behind and thunked the tailgate closed, our new Christmas tree safely in the truckbed.  After two decades in the desert, lightyears away, we had finally made the long-overdue breakout eight months ago with all of our four legged critters and this was our first Christmas in Valley Center.  We looked at each other. “Fat’s…”

     You would never find Fat’s, more accurately Fat Ivor’s Rib Rack, anywhere near the pages of Bon Appetit magazine or Guide Michelin, not in a million years, but it’s a local institution, one of the few restaurants in town, and the ribs are great and so are the burgers.  Just down the road from the feed store, Fat’s is a genuine joint by anyone’s definition, a darkish sort of a cowboy bar kind of place where you see everyone sooner or later, cowboys, flat hat vaqueros, truckers, city slickers, a place where, as soon as you sit down, the waitress brings you your favorite adult beverage without asking.  Fat’s would fit right in on any street in Dillon, Montana or Island Park, Idaho but it’s here in VC and it’s ours.

     It was early enough for a space to be waiting for Artie (the Red Truck) up front and for our favorite table to be waiting for us inside and we had just sat down, still chilled, when Santa appeared at my elbow.  I hadn’t even had time to take off my hat.  No, not Santa really, I knew better, had figured that old swindle out when I was a kid at Bamberger’s Department Store at Christmastime but this Santa was sure enough different.  His Santa suit was well made and his white fur cuffs and white hair were, well, different, and he had granny glasses with gold frames and he didn’t say “Ho, ho,” not even once but he leaned close and asked me, very soft, very serious, “What do you want for Christmas?” just as casually as if he was asking whether it was cold outside.  I looked at him, saw BW watching from across the table with that oh, come on look on her face but looking exactly like the woman I fell in love with 30 years ago and I answered, just as matter-of-fact, “I’ve got everything I want” because I realized in that moment, even with everything that had happened this year, that I did.

      He handed me a candy cane from his bag, gave BW a candy cane after mugging with her for my iPhone and then came back to me and leaned in closer this time.  “Are you telling me the truth?” in a softer voice and this time he was close enough for me to see his light blue eyes, indescribably kind, behind his librarian gold frames.  “You bet.” I said, and he nodded and walked away and out into the night without another word and when Natalie, the waitress, came over, BW asked who he was and did they do that every year and is it a VC tradition and how cool that was.  But no one had ever seen him before.  In a small town like Valley Center, everyone knows everyone including Santa but no one had ever seen that Santa before.  No one remembered anyone ever doing that before.

     Just my luck, I thought, What if it really was Santa and what if he actually did come over to me and ask me what I wanted and he was going to get it for me and I blew it?  I could have asked for a finished bridle horse or a new knee to replace the one that bay mare named Barbra crushed years ago or a Bruce Haener Santa Barbara spade bit, but I didn’t.  In that split second, when I looked over at JoAnn, I realized I did have everything I wanted.

     I still want a horse that goes straight up in a bridle and a new knee and a Bruce Haener bit but I know I wouldn’t trade anything for what I’ve got.

     Maybe that’s all it takes, a man in a red suit with a white beard to remind you what’s really important.

Merry Christmas from Valley Center

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  • Mary Shackelford says...

    Wow…a writer indeed. You two are so inspirational. I’m honored to know you.

    On May 27, 2018

  • Maribeth says...

    I loved your story. I read it a bit late due to my crazy Christmas schedule but it was lovely. I hope all is well and blessing for a great 2017!!!


    On May 27, 2018

  • Teresa Armstrong says...

    I so enjoyed this story! Doc, you have such a gift for writing! You both sound as happy as can be and look amazing….as always! Miss you guys!
    Happy, healthy 201 to a couple I greatly admire!
    Cheers ?~ Teresa ☺

    On May 27, 2018

  • Teresa Armsrrong says...

    I so enjoyed this story! Doc, you have such a gift for writing! You both sound as happy as can be and look amazing….as always! Miss you guys!
    Happy, healthy 201 to a couple I greatly admire!
    Cheers ?~ Teresa ☺

    On May 27, 2018

  • Barbette Beck says...

    What a lovely story. I’m so happy for you both that you are living the life you envisioned. I wish you all the best in the coming year. Happy Holidays!

    On May 27, 2018

  • Vicky salazar says...

    What a wonderful story Doc!! Merry Christmas to you and Joann!! Miss you guys. ?

    On May 27, 2018

  • Deb Ann Phelan says...

    Very well done my friend! Thank you for sharing your story! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Best regards,

    On May 27, 2018

  • Terry Del Bene says...

    Such a lovely story from such a lovely man! Doc your stories are as warm as the soft light from a candle and I love reading them. Life is a journey and ever changing. To me its all about the people that I have met in my life that I cherish, you being one of them and of course JoAnn (aka BW).

    I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a happy healthy new year!



    On May 27, 2018

  • Manon says...

    What a great story. You are the nicest guy. Wish I could find one just like you. Joann is a very lucky woman. Merry Christmas to you two. See you next year.

    On May 27, 2018

  • Rita Craig says...

    Great story Doc with a very poignant message for Christmas and every day of our lives. Thank you for caring and sharing. Sending a Big hug.

    On November 05, 2019

  • Karen Gamble says...

    Merry Christmas Richard and JoAnn
    Thanks for sharing a wonderful story??

    On November 05, 2019

  • Fawn Burke says...

    Great story Doc…made me cry!!!

    On November 05, 2019

  • Leslie Stewart says...

    Loved it . So happy for you and JoAnn. You have found your bliss . Merry Christmas from all the Stewart family . I MISS YOU ??

    On November 05, 2019

  • Nancy Studer says...

    So typically you and Jo to know the true and important things in life.
    Yes, the man in the red suit knew who to approach.
    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and the best in the New Year. Sounds like Valley Center likes you all as much as you like it. Miss you two. Hugs, Sandy and Nancy Studer. P.S. Great story as always, thanks for sharing.

    On November 05, 2019

  • Debbie says...

    Miss seeing you across the pond and sorry u moved away from LQ. Merry Christmas blessings to u both!!

    On November 05, 2019

  • Anne Muller says...

    Thank you, beautiful and kind man.

    On November 05, 2019

  • Jan dague says...

    Love this story and love living in Valley Center! Merry Christmas!

    On November 05, 2019

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