December 6, 2011

St. Nicholas: Putting away (my) childish things

St. Nicholas greeted us at the door.

This evening is one of my favorites leading up to Christmas. The children giggle, laugh, and point. Some hide behind their mothers’ legs, peeking one eye out at the jolly ole soul. We combine the delight of Santa with the telling of the story of the saint, and it connects – at least a little – the giving and receiving of gifts.

Kid after kid climbed on his lap, posed for pictures and then shared their list. Electric scooters. Harry Potter movies. iPods and iPhones (the last was my daughter. I caught St. Nicholas’ eye and shook my head a slight no. He steered her quickly into another direction).

Then he asked the kids if they’d been good this year. Most nodded their heads. Our son announced to the entire room: “I’ve been fan-tas-tic!” 

After the kids, some adults made their way to St. Nicholas’ lap. Their wish lists were different. For safe travels. For a mother to get well. For smooth transitions and a house (ours) to sell quickly. 

St. Nicholas cajoled a reluctant parishioner to share her wish for the coming year. Reluctantly, she answered. For our church to find a new priest who loves us. 

The visit by St. Nicholas was a corner of the evening’s tableaux. The main scene was a farewell dinner for my husband, who has accepted a new call. 

By the time the evening ended, we were full of turkey, potatoes, and jello desserts. We hugged and talked in small corners. But there was no grand speech, no room-wide litany of thanksgiving. 

I wondered how my husband felt, if he wished someone had taken the microphone. 

He smiled. It was perfect, he said. The proof of their affection was in the (corn) pudding, in the mounds of food they brought as offering. Every table in the fellowship hall was full. Nearly every person who had attended church over the past two years came to the dinner. 

Their presence was more than enough, he said.  

And I realized that a part of me is still the kid who asks for a scooter instead of good health, for a stuffed bear to hold instead of community that binds. As I closed my eyes for sleep that night, I prayed to put away these childish things, for strength to look beyond my wants to our collective needs. 

I wish I had told St. Nicholas that when I sat on his lap.