Persons, places and things: gifts for an unknown daughter


By Barb Arland-Fye


Seven-year-old Isabella’s Christ­mas wish list includes dolls, hair bows and jeans. That information appeared on an angel tag I selected from my parish’s Angel Tree. Each year I choose a girl’s name because I can live vicariously as mom to a daughter at Christ­mas Time. Let me explain. I grew up in a family of boys and always wanted a sister. Then I raised two sons, whom I love dearly, but a daughter would have been a welcome addition to our family. At age 4, my son Patrick told me he was going to get a sister. I asked him where and he said, “From the sister shop!”

December is an especially busy month at work, in my parish and family. Making time to shop for “my daughter” requires planning and discipline. Last week I made it to the mall and headed straight to the store where I’d purchased gifts in the past for one of my nieces. Her mother clued me in on the popular girls’ stores. This particular store practically burst at the seams (pun intended) with clothes and accessories. I solicited the help of a busy sales associate and explained my mission. She directed me to the trendy jeans for young girls today and scooped up baskets of hair bows for me to choose from.


As I waited in line to pay for my purchases, from the corner of my eye I saw a stack of dolls in boxes. I imagined myself at age 7 again and knew one of those dolls would have been a treasured gift under my Christmas tree. The helpful sales associate grabbed one of the boxed dolls and handed it me.

Something else happened while I waited in line with young moms completing purchases for their treasured daughters. A tinge of sadness welled up. In the blink of an eye I had moved from being a young mom to a middle-aged empty nester who could be the parent of these young moms. Isabella is young enough to be my granddaughter. Sometimes I yearn to return to the days of my own young motherhood and do some things over, savor the moments I neglected to pay attention to at the time.

It’s a yearning to be present. In Father Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for Dec. 10, he observes that we live most of our life in the past or in the future, both of which Jesus warns us against. “You really won’t grow unless you’re willing to live right here, right now — to be present,” Fr. Rohr says. We have to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, our whole mind and with our whole strength, Fr. Rohr continues, citing Luke’s Gospel (10:27).

While I’m working to be present to the Lord my God, I can’t resist jumping ahead in my mind’s eye to Christmas Day when Isabella opens her gifts with a look of sheer delight on her face. I can’t possibly know what her reaction will be; but the gifts were chosen with the love I have in my heart for a child who needs a lift up. That’s one way I’m striving to be present to God, by being present to others.

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