A Young Girl’s Christmas List

A blogger by the name of Possummomma posted an essay her daughter wrote in school. She called it a “pop essay”; the students did not know the topic in advance. Here is what Possummomma’s daughter wrote in response to the question: What do you want for Christmas?

What I want for Christmas, by Possum#1
There’s a movie that’s frequently shown in twenty-four hour blocks in which the main character, Ralphie, wants nothing but a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. Ironically enough, he’s asked to write an essay about his Christmas desire by a slightly shrewd teacher and told that he’ll shoot his eye out. As I glance around this classroom, I see that many of my friends are feverishly pumping out manifestos dictating what gadgets and goodies they wish to find under their Christmas tree on the morning of December 25th. My mind, however, is reeling over the presumption that my public school teacher has addressed our classroom and assigned an essay in which she presumes that the entire lot of us are Christian or celebrate Christmas.

I take another look around my classroom and notice that Mahmeed is absent-mindedly cleaning underneathe his fingernails with the cap from his pen. Emily is feverishly trying to catch my eye and, having done so, mouthing the words, “I don’t celebrate Christmas…I’m Jewish.” in a quizzical manner. Jayden is doing what he normally does during such pop essays: he’s looking out the window- probably wondering where his parents will get the money for January’s rent and feeling guilty for daring to think about a gift. He’s pretty sensitive.

I have never admitted it to any of my friends, but I think I must be an atheist. My mother is an atheist and has always told me to find my own path to spiritual comfort. I think I must be an atheist because I can’t fathom any God who would allow the celebration of the birth of his son to become a time when my friends are consumed with thoughts of how they can convince Grandma to buy them a new Nano Ipod while other kids are wondering how their parent will manage the rent. What do I want for Christmas, I want a less assuming teacher. I want a teacher who thinks past the standard “What I want for Christmas…” assignment when she’s aware that three out of her twenty students probably don’t celebrate Christmas. I want a world where my friends will be asked to write essays about how they might use their winter vacay’ to help other people. I want my mom to be healthy again. I want my grandmother to quit smoking. I want my grandfather to quite bugging her about it. But most of all, I want to not get an “F” on this assignment because you get angry with me for saying all of the above. Merry Christmas, Mrs. “X”* (name changed to protect identities).

Possum #1 makes us proud.
Reposted with permission

If that don’t make a momma proud…

The teacher wrote this at the end of the student’s essay:

[Possum#1], thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I don’t think you’re an atheist but I respect your empathy for your friends. Please see me after class today. A+

Possum #1 reported that the teacher said she couldn’t be an atheist because her “ability to care for others feelings isn’t an atheist trait.” The teacher attributed the girl’s compassion to her own god, calling it a “very Christian attitude.”

Happy Holidays.

11 responses to “A Young Girl’s Christmas List

  • B.T. Murtagh

    Good old Possummomma – I used to read her all the time, and remember when she first posted this. Thanks for reminding me of an old friend and prompting me to look her blog up again!

    (I started to respond to the false equivalency of caring=Christian and its converse atheism=uncaring, but it growed and growed so I ended up posting it as an entry on my own site.)

  • Lottie

    Good to see you, B.T. I thought the name Possummomma sounded familiar, but when I happened across her, I didn’t recall having been there. I wonder if I saw it on your blog.

    I’ll head over to yours in just bit.

    Happy Holidays!

  • girldujour

    I do not affiliate myself with any structured religion, nor am I offended by them. I am offended, however, that much of our society has placed such a great importance on buying presents. For what?

    Every year my sister gives me something ridiculous. Last year it was a blanket and a stuffed animal. (May I remind you that I am a grown woman.) We met last night and she gave me a scented candle with matching scented soap. It looked something good to regift.

    I only give gifts when the spirit moves me, not when the calendar says that December 25th is approaching. It just seems so stupid–and meaningless.

  • redhairedstepchild

    I’m a newcomer to your blog, having been sent your way by “SaintPaulGrrl.” I think that Possummomma’s daughter is an intelligent, insightful young woman with wisdom and empathy that surpasses that of many grownups I meet. I wholeheartedly agree with the message that our educational system needs teachers who can leave their cultural norms and expectations at home, who can lay aside their sweeping generalizations and assumptions, instead viewing each student as a unique individual without racial, religious, gender or other bias.

    Kudos to possummomma and her daughter, and kudos to you “Rambling On” for posting this!

  • saintpaulgrrl

    Lottie, this was a thought-provoking essay, and I’m so glad that the student got an A+, even though she got a completely misguided statement from her teacher that she couldn’t be atheist because her attitude was too “Christian!”

    This Christian=good/moral/ethical cultural assumption really hits home today. You see, I was just disowned by some right-wing, Born Again family members this week without even being given an opportunity to know why I was being disowned nor being given an opportunity for any discussion. “Christian” doesn’t mean anything when it comes to how people are treated. That comes from a core set of values that resides within one’s heart and conscience and is independent of any set of religious beliefs.

    This is one of my fundamental truths. Thank you for affirming it and printing this insightful essay. My faith in humanity is somewhat restored by this caring, sensitive atheist whom I would be proud to know.

  • Lottie

    Red: Welcome! May I call you Red?

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment and kind support. I need all of that I can get.

    Bonnie: I’m very sorry that you’ve been treated so poorly. It’s absolutely unthinkable. Anyone who behaves that way has no business trying to claim any kind of (religious) moral high ground.

    Strange, isn’t it? The family members who have treated me like dirt are all devout Christians too.

    “Christian” doesn’t mean anything when it comes to how people are treated. That comes from a core set of values that resides within one’s heart and conscience and is independent of any set of religious beliefs.

    Brilliantly stated! Thank you. I’m glad this post was able to lift your spirits at least a little.

  • B.T. Murtagh

    In response to girldujour, I must confess I enjoy the occasional meaningless ritual, and I’d have to say that as meaningless rituals go giving gifts on particular occasions isn’t a bad one.

    I too give gifts whenever it tickles my fancy to do so, but I also make a point of giving something to those close to me on their birthdays, arbitrary as that is, and once a year around the winter solstice – an equally arbitrary time as a birthday but one that applies to everyone.

    (If they want to hold off opening the present until the 25th that’s fine by me too, but my arbitrary day for giving it is the solstice, 21st or 22nd depending on the year. I like to put up cheery decorations around then too, and I usually don’t take them down until sometime after the arbitrary beginning of the calendar year.)

    Midwinter has always been a psychologically good time to make a point of gathering with friends and family – it helps fend off the dark, cold blues and there’s usually little else to do. I like having a specific time to gather so, and even though the season has little effect on most people’s workday any more, society continues to ease making this the time to do so by giving folks paid days off and so forth.

    If other people want to clutter it up with religion that’s their lookout, but for me, it’s just a good (if admittedly arbitrary) time to celebrate existence with my friends and family.

  • Lottie

    Girl: I didn’t mean to skip your comment. When I saw it in my dashboard, it looked like it was under a different post. Doh!

    I certainly understand your frustrations.

    B.T.: Thank you for another lovely comment. It’s always very nice to hear from you.

  • redhairedstepchild

    You may call me “Red.” As my father would have said, “Just don’t call me late to supper!” Great blog, Lottie. Thanks for the welcome.

  • Terra

    I missed quite a few of these posts, so please excuse my tarty response (I blame the cold). That response would have had me so pissed off there would have been a talk to the principal. My poor children, if only I could just let things alone.

  • Lottie

    Red: Thank you! 😀 (Sorry I’m just not getting around to replying to comments. Lots going on… )

    Terra: Same here. I know I would have had a thing or two to say about it.

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