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  • Writer's pictureAlice Wyatt

The Christmas Water Buffalo

I am co-hosting a story-telling event in Truth or Consequences called T or C Story Lab. My partner Lynn and I currate six story-tellers around a theme that changes each month. In December, in honor of the holidays, we decided Well, THAT Was Awful! would be a launching point for many memorable stories.

It was fun to pull up this old event, almost 21 years old in fact, and re-work it into a story with a beginning, middle and end. It was a different kind of writing as I had to tell the story, not read it. I had to make it simpler, focus on facts, put things in an order I would easily remember, with key words as triggers for the next thing to come.

I am not the storyteller in our family, that role is left up to the boys, who often have perfect recall of past events, and a comedic timing that leaves us howling. Still, after crafting and presenting The Christmas Water Buffalo, I have felt the call to do this with more family memories before they fade away and are lost forever.

Here is the story of The Christmas Water Buffalo as told during T or C Story Lab.

Pulling out Christmas tree decorations every year is always a trip down memory lane and this year was no exception. My daughter and her partner were with us, and being new to the family, he was getting filled in on our family history one ornament at a time. Then Jane pulled the Water Buffalo ornament out of the box and I said, “No. No. NO!!” You cannot tell Mike that story, he will think I am a terrible mother!”

Parenting is a tough job, but I felt I did pretty well when it came to Christmas. Santa had his place, rather smallish. Jesus had his, front and center. My kids knew Christmas was not about them. One of the things we did was get a catalogs from a charity where you purchase a gift of an animal, goat, chickens, or pig for a family in a third-world country. With your donation, the animal is purchased locally and given to the family along with animal husbandry mentoring. It is a marvelous idea and lifts many people out of poverty. I highly recommend it.

So, going back in time. - What my kids especially love is pouring over the pictures in the catalog. Elisabeth always chooses chickens, and pigs are a favorite, though somewhat expensive. With the money allocated to each child, we can only buy a portion of a pig; the rest comes from other donors. I didn’t bother to explain the nuances of this to the kids. Too complicated and not necessary, right?

Well, this particular year, Adam has just turned three. He is an adorable little towheaded with big brown eyes and a soft heart. He isn’t quite sure what is going on, but taking cues from older siblings, looks carefully through the catalog and chooses A Water Buffalo! A Water Buffalo! Oh my, this causes a lot of excitement. Nobody has ever chosen anything quite as majestic as a Water Buffalo!

The kids cut pictures out of the catalog and glue them onto construction paper, making an ornament to hang on the tree. They talk excitedly about their animals, what kind of food they eat, where they live. We have to look up where Water Buffalos live and why anyone would want a Water buffalo. As we pulled out maps and books, I pat myself on the back, fun AND educational! Perfect holiday parenting.

Christmas morning!!!! The kids pour down the stairs. Stockings!!! “Ok, don’t eat any candy yet! Breakfast first, then the presents under the tree.” Such excitement. Presents are exchanged with the older kids playing Santa; you can imagine the bucolic scene of Christmas magic. All of a sudden, I notice Adam in front of the tree with his Water Buffalo ornament clutched in his little tiny hands, tears pouring down his face.

“Why Adam, whatever is the matter?!” We all huddle around him. Crying on Christmas! How can this be a thing? He is sobbing so hard we can barely understand what he is saying.

Where’s my…. sob, sob. Where’s my…. howl. Where’s my WATER BUFFALO?! Oh Dear.

Well, if you are three and your mother says to pick a gift from a catalog, and you choose a Water Buffalo, and then Christmas morning arrives with all its splendor and glory and build up and your Water Buffalo is nowhere to be seen? Well, you might cry too. Sigh… terrible holiday parenting.

Of course, Jane can’t wait to tell Mike this story despite my protests, and at the end, he looks at me sympathetically and says, “Wow! Alice, that was…

I know, that was…. Well, that was AWFUL!

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Jan 06, 2022

As you told your story I was reminded of my hours paging through the Heifer International catalogue. I liked the idea of a water buffalo but I had to go with something smaller. Giving through Heifer brings me joy.


Jan 01, 2022

Finally feeling better and am able to comment. I know your heart had to be breaking looking at Adam's downtrodden face!


Dec 21, 2021

How did I never hear this story?! Poor Adam!

But now I can't stop singing this song!

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