“Mommy, do you know what I want for Christmas?” Nicole asked me on an early December morning as I was brushing her hair.

“What, honey?”

A baby sister, a puppy, and a baby Jesus barn,” she returned, gravity in her voice.

She knew exactly what she was asking for.


For a few seconds I just stood there, my hands in the air, staring at her, trying to get to grips with the reality of the situation—my five-year-old’s naïve and simple Christmas wish list mirrored the true meaning of the Christmas Holiday Spirit and was nowhere near as secular as mine that was full of expensive photography equipment, baking accessories, and vintage plates.

A hope for more love, joy, and good times was all she wished for.

Two babies on one list and a dog! She was clearly longing for company. Could I deliver in a little over three weeks? No. So it would be downright cruel of me to encourage any hope for a sibling under the tree on Christmas morning. A dog? Yeah, a lovely substitute but out of the question as well. She was allergic to dog and cat dander.

So with a lump in my throat and a lonely tear rolling down my cheek, I had to sit her down to a serious conversation and explain exactly why I was sure that Santa would never bring her the first two items on her list. A thing I wouldn’t wish on any parent. Or a kid who just turned five and just now got aware and believed with all of the might of her little heart in Santa, Rudolph, and a bit of magic on Christmas morning.

Was she disappointed? I don’t know but she’d never brought it up again. She did get, though, the third item on that ill-fated Christmas wish list about halfway through the season when I made a mistake by taking her shopping with me. She saw a plain-looking nativity set of a metal stable and hand-painted clay figurines, grabbed it, and wouldn’t let go of it. After a dozen or so of “Mommy, can you buy it for me? Pleeeaaase!”, I gave in.

“Okay. But only one thing. So make your choice wisely.”

away in a mager

For the entire time that we shopped, I was able to witness her resist the temptation of an array of beautiful toys, books, and electronics that were jumping at us from everywhere.

“Can I have this too?” Nicole reached for a Barbie doll once.

“Barbie or baby Jesus barn? Pick,” I stood my ground.

She just hugged the nativity set tighter, and we left the store with one more gift that Santa would never bring.

stable where Jesus was born

Styling by Nicole Miller, Photography by Olga Miller

Shortly after the conversation she came up with a completely different wish list that included a princess dress, shoes, and a crown. I was surprised. But it was not the change of heart that surprised me but the way she stood by it throughout the remaining weeks before Christmas. Despite the colorful allure of TV commercials, printed catalogs, and peer competition, every letter to Santa—and there were at least 5 of them written on different occasions and at different locations—contained one and the same drawing—a drawing of a princess, wearing a long gown, pointy shoes, and a gem-topped crown.

Christmas traditions

Needless to say, on Christmas morning she got what she wanted and more. And I was happy for that.

I was also happy I’d had that conversation with her and nipped in the bud “Maybe”, “I’ll think about it”, “Put it on your Christmas wish list”, “Write to Santa”, and the like.

I wouldn’t have been able to look her in the eyes, if I hadn’t.

Merry Christmas, everyone! And this is exactly what I am going to wish you: more love, joy, and good times!