We Collearys are not a religious people.
Henry’s a recovering Catholic.
I was raised Mormon and love them dearly, but simply could not commit to “One True Church” or give up wine.
(The Mormon age for baptism is 8, but even then I knew I would one day #lovethegrape — that should trend, no?)
Clare is probably the most connected to God of all of us, as she prays frequently.
But Bridget is a self-professed atheist (at age 9).
She believes in Science and the Greek Gods.
She being Athena, Henry Zeus, Clare Poseidon and I’m stuck with Hera, who was jealous of all of the beautiful Goddesses and frequently arranged to have them killed.
We’re a motley crew. So Christmas tends to be about movies, parties and, most importantly, loot.
The girls give us their Christmas wish lists in July, which they add to and amend all the way up to Christmas 24th.
- Sometimes they photo-copy and collate their lists.
- Sometimes they hand them out as fliers on the street like hucksters in front of an airport strip club.
- Sometimes they go door-to-door with their lists like Jehovah’s Witnesses and are turned away by garden hoses and German Shepherds named Fritz.
I’m ambivalent every year about our commercial Christmas.
I’m worried we’re not teaching our children Compassion, Love, Humility and How to Load the Dishwasher, but are most likely raising Soulless Loot Trolls.
So, I went about my Christmas shopping this year with a sense of resentment.
Who came up with this gluttonous, commercial season?
- Was Walmart around during Jesus’s time?
- Did Costco co-opt the son of God?
- Should Henry and I even celebrate Christmas considering our agnosticism?
Then something interesting happened this year.
Both of my daughters approached me separately, the money from their piggy banks in the palms of their hands.
They wanted to buy Christmas gifts for their daddy and me and their friends.
I told them that would cost a lot of their money. Maybe even all the money they had, which they usually guard like Gimli in The Lord Of The Rings from potential thieves. (Like mothers who don’t have cash on hand to pay the pizza man).
I tried to talk them out of spending all their money, offering to pay for half of each gift. They’d have none of that. They wanted the gifts to be from them, not me.
So we shopped for their loved ones, and Henry took them shopping for me.
They bought thoughtful, well-considered gifts, ferried them off to my bedroom to wrap themselves and place under the tree with excited anticipation.
On Christmas morning, they rushed the tree like forward tackles. I waited for the feeding frenzy to begin.
That’s when they returned with their gifts for Henry and me. They wanted us to open ours first.
Bridget gave me a dainty, gold Angel pin that I can wear close to my heart.
Clare gave me a messenger bag that would be good for carrying my computer when I want to work away from home.
They were so proud of their gifts, and I was so proud of my growing-up girls.
The day after Christmas, a package arrived. It had come all the way from China, which is why it was late.
For the last three years Bridget has asked for a Soda Hat for Christmas.
It comes equipped with a long straw you can put in the soda cans that will reach down to your mouth so you can drink without using your hands.
Yes. I know. Awesome.
I ignored this gift request each year, because I didn’t want to give my kid something from which she could mainline sugar, which could potentially evolve into a trip to Afghanistan to buy the best poppies.
But this year I cracked, and ordered the foul thing.
Yet when I pulled it from the bag, it was smashed into several pieces, destroyed. I was about to furtively chuck it when Bridget appeared.
“What’s that, Mommy?”
“Oh Honey, I’m sorry, it’s the Soda Hat I bought you, but it’s broken.”
Bridget’s eyes welled.
“I’m sorry, Sweetie. I can order a new one.”
“No, Mommy, I’m not sad. I’m just so glad you thought of me!”
Then she threw her arms around me and told me she loved me.
I told her I loved her too, and we held each other for a very long time. I also might have inhaled the still-lingering baby scent from the top of her head.
Maybe someday our Colleary Christmas will be more about Christ than the things we’re giving and getting, but this Christmas I’ll settle for the Soda Hat. And a pair of red shoes. (Thank you, Henry!)
I’d love to hear about the best thing you gave or received this Christmas?