The last Christmas I had with my dad, he gave my kids a racist gift: a teepee. I hated this present. I told my dad how insensitive and inappropriate it was, I hid it from my kids, very nearly throwing it away; but when my dad died, I couldn’t bear it. I gave into this cultural appropriation because it was something my dad had given to my children, and that would be the last time this ever happened. Now, two years later, my son and daughters have turned the teepee into a “castle” with magical fairies, fierce warriors, and beautiful princess crowns adorned all over it.
My children have an uncanny ability to take what is toxic in our world and make it easier to digest. How? Probably fairy dust. Whatever it is it’s making our “fallen” human experience less disgusting and more good. Children have that kind of magic, touching ugly things and making them less terribly human and more virtuously human, all because of their wild, whimsical imaginations.
At what age is this forced out of us by society like an antibiotic pushing out a good bacteria? And how can I stop it from happening? I need my kids to always see the good. I want them to always be able to dream up better versions of the world, to play in a more beautiful present, while holding the past responsible for its flaws, and never pushing any of the flawed loved ones away. (Something I struggle with, a lot).
Last night as I put my son to sleep inside the “castle”, the poles all adorned with princess dresses, crowns, and shields, I wept. I wept for my dad and his flaws and mistakes. I wept for my own loss of innocence. And I cried for the uncertain futures of my children’s innocence. I am a prophetess, holding many futures, pasts, and presents in my mind’s eye.
My thoughts turned to the Virgin Mary, as they often do at this time of year. I can’t unequivocally say whether Mary bore a mythical son of God who saved the world from it’s flaws or if she was just a pregnant teenager needing a community to rally around her when the cultural practice was to push her away (or even murder her). I know which version my magical, inner-child wants to believe; and so I cling to that story. But honestly both are good stories for our world today. Her story, whether a God given scripture making story or just a #goodnewsnetwork story, help me to believe in a better way for the failing society I see all around me.
I gave up convincing anyone that Jesus is the Savior of the world years ago, because frankly, I don’t have to, if He is this magical thing I believe He is then He will do that on His own. But I can say that one of the most poetic and beautiful lines in all of the literature of the world is found in Luke 2:19 of the New Testament. After Mary had seen strangers rally around her and her new babe with gifts and open arms, it reads: “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.”
So this Christmas, I offer any parent reading this, the smallest bit of wisdom I have learned as my gift to you. Raising little, beautiful creatures is seeing how pure love and acceptance can change that which is ugly into beauty. Let us all, like one named Mary did so long ago, keep these beautiful things of our children’s magical existences, and ponder them in our hearts (always). If we want society to change or love to conquer hate, we must keep them, and ponder them in our heart (always). Because keeping and pondering is when we begin to change. And all we really can change in a broken society is ourselves.