Saving Forgetful Old St. Nick
Be not forgetful … (Hebrews 13:2)
[And yes, this verse is totally, entirely, unapologetically, jerked out of context, which I promise never to do again.]
Forgetful Old St. Nick
The aunt who was playing Santa Claus at the family Christmas dinner was nearing the end of the pile of gifts that had been sitting under the tree.
The little face beside me was growing more sober by the minute. The presents were almost gone and he still didn’t have one. My own mind was in a panic: what if I had not grabbed six-year-old Nick’s (his real name and age at the time) Christmas gift in the flurry of leaving for our family Christmas dinner?
One Christmas I wrote about a prior year’s magical Christmas moment when several of my very young great nieces and nephews blew me away by summarizing the Gospel story of Christmas and Easter in several succinct lines. If that was a high when I was left tingly with joy and happiness, this was the exact opposite: I couldn’t have felt lower. My Christmas was gone. Would Nick cry? Pitch a tantrum? (not out of the question). Would he hate me forever? What could I possibly tell him to help him understand?
To make matters really bad, my presents for all the nephews and nieces and the great nephews and nieces were the ONLY presents they were getting that night. So the pressure was on. Each kid was getting one gift and Nick (the irony is only hitting me now) was being slighted by jolly old St. Nick.
“Nick,” I said with the longest, saddest look on my face, and every muscle of it was true, “I am so sorry but I think I left your gift under my tree at home.” I wanted to cry. I wanted to fall through the floor. I wanted to go back and start this evening all over.
Everyone looked around to see if my gift to Nick had been overlooked. I went out to my car to check, double checked boxes still under the tree. I apologized to his family, to the grandma. I felt they probably all thought I had forgotten little Nick all together and hadn’t gotten him anything. But I knew I had bought him a present. It obviously just didn’t make it to the party.
Nick’s face was as long as mine, his eyes wide and doleful. Earlier he had flashed a small wad of cash and a gift card that he had collected at previous exchanges. He was carefully guarding it in his little wallet. I grabbed for the only idea that came to my tormented brain. Did husband have a $10 on him, roughly comparable to the value of the other gifts I was giving the kids? Husband did. He retrieved it, handed it over with a look passing between us that we both understood completely, a gift of almost long years of marriage: (Him: here I am bailing out my crazy wife again. Me: Yes and thank you so much, you sweet thing. I hope this works.)
I handed Nick the $10 and told him again how very sorry I was and that I would bring him his actual gift later. I knew I had it at home. He smiled every so slightly and I knew there would be no tears this night: not his, not mine, just glory alleluia: small crisis had been averted.
My [then] twenty-three-year old daughter summarized it nicely when she said, “No wonder he was smiling. He got a $10 bill out of you.”
And yes, this forgetful old St. Nick really did find the little boy Nick’s present under my tree at home, beneath a pile of presents destined for another gathering.
Moral: Always make a list, check it twice. And it doesn’t hurt to go through December
with a spare $10 or $20 always in your wallet.
What was your worst and most famous moment of Christmas forgetfulness? How did it work out?
Read this year’s Another Way Christmas column here.