I am 4 or 5 years old. It is Christmas Eve in Isleta Pueblo, and I lie in bed in our living room, too excited to sleep. My family of nine—seven children and our parents—lives in an adobe home of five rooms on the east side of the plaza. No one thought that I could remain awake through the Midnight Mass and the Indian dance for Baby Jesus afterwards—I know I could—so I’ve been left behind, maybe with my father, little sister, and baby brother.
The lights on the Christmas tree have been left on. The icicles and ornaments, dangling from tree branches, glisten. I am mesmerized by the glint and colors, especially the cobalt blue lights, a magical color that fills the simple room with promise and joy. Periodically, the butane heater in the corner of the room turns on with a whoosh, and the flame of the gas burner blazes red through a glass window, lighting up the room. I get out of the pull-out bed and run quickly to the window, sticking my head through the curtains. Luminarias line our adobe wall. More are atop the roof, I know, emitting a glow through the paper bags like those I can see on the roofs of other homes. They shine brightly in the darkness. I pull my head back from the window and am awed by the reflection of tree lights on glass Christmas ornaments. I’m not allowed to touch them. Just looking at them seems like a forbidden act I now indulge in. I breathe in the pine fragrance of the tree, and blow gently on the bulbs to make them sway. When my feet grow cold on the bare floor, I run back to bed and jump in.
It is quiet. This night is special. I don’t fully understand why, but it is enough that I can feel it in the comforting flame of the heater, in the razzle-dazzle of the Christmas tree, and in the quiet beauty of the luminarias in the cold, dark night. My little sock, worn at the toe and now hanging limp on the wall, will hold something in the morning. I will have a present to open and be able to watch the dances in the church courtyard. Do I hear drums? Perhaps. I fall asleep and I am startled when I hear feet stomping outside and feel a rush of cold air when the kitchen door opens. The two oldest, my sisters, make a dignified entrance, but my two older brothers are excited. They laugh as they talk about what they have seen. Four and five years older than I am, they are, to me, wise in the ways of the world.
Earlier today, we wished for snow on Christmas Day. I have in mind the kind of snow I saw on television, a thick blanket of peace and quiet that seems to suggest Christmas and snow go hand in hand. One of my brothers had the idea to pray, so we knelt down, closed our eyes, and in simple, childlike faith, asked for snow. Now, my eyes grow heavy and I fall back to sleep with the buzz of voices in the background.
I awaken when the stark light of the bare bulb overhead shines in my eyes and I hear once again the pitched excitement of my brothers in the early morning as they look out the window. I jump out of bed and run to the window to see a dusting of snow on the ground. It’s not enough snow for one snowman or to last through the day, but it is enough to make me feel the specialness of Christmas, the wonder of answered prayer, to feel rich with the orange, candy, nuts, and coins in my sock. It is a Christmas pure and simple, a Christmas that is more than enough. Much too soon, the world would tell me what we had wasn’t enough.
Evelina Zuni Lucero (Isleta/Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo) is an associate professor in the creative writing department at the Institute of American Indian Arts, in Santa Fe. She is the author of Night Star, Morning Star, which won the 1999 First Book Award for Fiction from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas.