Under the Tree, Overrated

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"Under the tree, overrated" by Lara Patangan (CatholicMom.com)

Image created by the author in Canva.com using free elements.

It was Christmas Eve and I couldn’t wait for Santa to come. I am not even sure I believed in Santa at this point in my childhood, but I believed in presents and that was good enough for me. I had trouble sleeping, and hearing the rustle of my mom doing last-minute gift-wrapping upstairs only heightened my anticipation. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, I prowled the attic, my mom’s closet, and any other place I could think to snoop.

The idea of being surprised was overrated. Practically speaking, I could just as easily be surprised by looking inside a plastic bag while standing barefoot on the attic’s plywood floor. I felt certain that I had watched enough television to be able to feign astonishment on Christmas morning. I even fantasized about my Emmy-award-winning performance. It would be as bright and colorful as the lights on the tree that would spotlight me.

I wasn’t sure what I was looking for during all that prowling but that’s part of the journey of discovery, right? It’s the thrill of seeking, of what could be, — maybe even of finding something better than ever imagined. In my case, what I found didn’t compare to the curated wares hawked in the Spiegel catalog I carefully perused as a pastime. There was a Tootsie Roll piggy bank filled with chewy chocolate jerky. Meh. Fun socks — as if those two words could possibly go together. Toys that were obviously for my brother. I certainly had no use for G.I. Joe. He was too short to use as a suitable partner for Barbie. Then there were a few miscellaneous clothes that I hoped were for my sister because they weren’t quite cute enough for me.

I wanted a fur coat like the one I lovingly pet in the department store inspiring a lecture from my mom on animal cruelty. What seemed crueler was her begrudging me this accessory that I was certain would make me look as glamorous as Sue Ellen on the Friday-night soap opera, Dallas. (If they didn’t want children to watch such smut, they should not have run it after an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard). I would have settled for a rabbit’s foot key chain like some of the other girls at my school had. They were supposed to bring good luck. Who wouldn’t carry around two inches of dead animal foot in exchange for a little luck?

In retrospect, there was no way that anything under the tree could ever live up to my fantastical expectations. Years later, I realized that the one thing that could was upstaged by the material consumption: That was my God. I understood it was the Baby in the manger that was the glory I sought. He was the one who would make me feel like I was enough, even without plush fur wrapped around my body. It was Him I could trust to guide and protect me from harm – not a rabbit’s foot attached to a key chain. It was His love that exceeded my wildest expectations.  It was Jesus, the Son of God, born in a manger, that has been the most surprising and significant gift of my life. For so long, I searched in all the wrong places, for all the wrong things. He was never in the attic, or under the tree. All along, he was within – the perfect gift just waiting to be unwrapped.


Copyright 2019 Lara Patangan

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About Author

Lara Patangan is a freelance writer and mother of two boys. She believes the merits of mercy are among our greatest gifts as Christians. Her first book about works of mercy will be published in the spring by Our Sunday Visitor. Please visit MercyMatters.net to join this community that believes in the power of mercy to change the world.

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