Every year, St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Delmar (like so many other area churches, Catholic and not) sponsors a Giving Tree. At the start of Advent, the tree is covered with tags, each one listing a gift, either much needed or much wanted, or both. This year there were probably more than 1,000 tags. We grabbed a few, as did the other parishioners crowded around the tree after Masses that Sunday, most of us looking for just the right gift we wanted to get for someone in need. A warm coat. A new doll. A gift card to the grocery store. A sweatsuit. A poinsettia.
When we delivered our gifts to the parish’s school gym for distribution last weekend, Olivia and I asked Barbara, the woman in charge, about the remaining tags on the tree. What would happen to those gifts, we asked. They won’t get bought, she said. Some were general asks, such as “Women’s pajamas. Large,” meaning the organization didn’t have a specific person in mind but knew it would be used for one of the many people served. Others, however, had first names. Pel wanted a warm black jacket. Evie wanted a porcelain doll. Olivia and I looked at each other and grabbed those two tags, and we set out to find the doll. I headed straight for Tuesday Morning in Glenmont because it seemed to me that inexpensive porcelain dolls should be Tuesday Morning’s wheelhouse. Wrong. The closest we came was a truly frightening porcelain cat in a Santa suit. To which I could only say, Why?
So I put out a call on Facebook, asking if any local friends knew where I could buy a fairly inexpensive porcelain doll. In response, I received two, count ’em, two messages from friends (Thank you, Jennifer and Arlene.) saying that they had porcelain dolls in excellent condition and would be willing to donate them. When I delivered the first doll to the parish, they asked if the second would be coming because they already had someone in mind. And so Evie is getting her Christmas wish answered, and now someone else, perhaps a woman who isn’t expecting to get anything at all, will also get a porcelain doll.
As I thought about writing this post as a thank you to my friends, I couldn’t help but reflect on the many times people — far, near, virtual — have stepped up to help, sometimes without my even asking — and have made my life so much better, easier, happier. Like last night, when Chiara’s religion teacher (Thank you, Michele.) stopped by to deliver her little Christmas gift and faith formation handouts because Chiara missed class yesterday. Or when we went to Italy, and I called on a whole army of local helpers to make sure my dad and stepmom didn’t have to cart three busy kids all over an unfamiliar town while we were gone for 13 days. To and from dance class and gymnastics class and Scout meetings and school clubs they drove, sometimes more than once, so that Dennis and I could travel worry-free. Even friends I haven’t seen or spoken to in months called or emailed or pulled me aside on the way out of Sunday Mass to tell me to give my parents their cell phone numbers in case of emergency, or for any reason at all. I want to list them all, but I’m afraid I’ll miss someone — that’s how many people were involved. But I’ll give it a shot…
Thank you for being my extra set of feet, ears, eyes, car keys: Laura, Michele, Valerie, Joan K., Joan W., Lisa, Jessica, Rob, Rose, Fred, Delia, and Liv’s friend who transported her back and forth to Homecoming. And thank you to friends and neighbors who offered to be on call should the need for help arise, which, thankfully, it did not: Anne, Teresa, Denise, Arlene, and anyone I might have missed on this list but really hope I didn’t.
I am so grateful not only for your support and generosity when I was in Italy or when I was searching for a porcelain doll but always. So often many of you offer to drive one of my children somewhere to save me a trip or take one of my kids overnight or come to my rescue with some crazy item I need for school or travel or Giving Trees. Know that you are my village. And I am happy to be yours if ever, whenever you need me.