I drove the carriage on Christmas Eve. It was an engagement, I forget their names, let's just call them Young, and Rich.
It was in Los Feliz. I felt kinda bad taking the kids and Barry out on Christmas Eve, but then I realized I 1. didn't have a choice, there's no other driver and 2. it's only an hour, and there's money at the end. Plus we ended at 7:30 so we could get home in time to do cookies for Santa and a decent bedtime.
It was a blustery night, big full moon and the wind made it almost feel like a winter's Christmas. We unloaded the carriage, it turns out, right at the back entrance of the building where Barry and I used to live when we were carefree and childless. I had to do this drive because the idea that someone would propose on Christmas Eve with a horse drawn carriage, it was too pretty to pass up.
A big wrapped box was waiting on the carriage seat for the unsuspecting girlfriend. I guess inside somewhere was the ring.
Barry took the kids (baby sleeping) in the minivan to drive around for an hour to keep the baby asleep, using up as much gas as I would probably make that evening in salary. Ahh well.
The young couple got in my carriage, he wanted me to head to the park but there was a holiday light show that had Griffith Park clogged. He was out of ideas. I said I'd just take neighborhood streets.
Since it was Christmas time, every street we went down was celebrating. Lights, decorations out front. People going into houses carrying big wrapped presents, the people opening the doors to Christmas parties greeting the guests happily, fires going, music playing. It was like driving through nostalgia. The streets were pretty much empty of cars, and the couple opened some champagne and the engagement got under way. She opened the box and I guess she said yes because all she did was cry. Kiss and cry.
Big white Clyde and I dawdled up and down one street after another, the wind blowing back our hair, as the couple cemented their relationship. Being out with Clyde on Christmas was like driving a big white furry ghost -- he and I had cemented our relationship over apples each time we saw each other. His big white mysterious face and cushy grey lips gently devouring every piece of apple from my flat hand. His face was so huge, he could easily suck in an entire apple like it was a tiny piece of Trident gum. But he was a gentleman in every aspect. A two ton gentleman in a white fur coat.
As we drove up and down streets at our slow pace while I knew Barry was driving up and down similar streets, probably at the same pace, killing time with the kids, and we both looked at Christmas lights, him with the kids, and Santa was only hours away, and here we were in our old neighborhood with two aspects of my life happening simultaneously -- the horse connection and the thick family. Both experiences crawling along with me just hanging on to the reins.
I thought about my newly engaged couple and I thought sometimes you're the driver, and sometimes you're in the carriage, having the big event. Most of the time, though, you're the driver. Just a piece of something else, something bigger than you.
I enjoy every minute of their hour rental and then drop them off at the old apartment building. I unhook Clyde, unassemble the harness off his the massive white warm body. The white minivan shows back up, the floating raft with my Christmas family in it. Clyde's neck curves up higher than my shoulder, his head higher than my head. He nuzzles my arm for apples. I stroke his calm, whale face.
Merry Christmas, I think, and look over, seeing my babies faces in the car window.