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Does god love me?


Dwyer Leahy Vessey

The first time I knew that god loved me I was eight years old. It was New Years Day. Christmas had been the sort of chaotic wonder that comes with five kids within seven years. At the end of Christmas day we were full, satisfied and spent. By the time New Year’s Day appeared my toys were almost a whole week old, and I was wondering what happened to the stuff I didn’t get for Christmas. In short time I remembered the cowboy outfit.

It was light brown with dark brown fringe on the sides of the pants, with a brown and white spotted plastic vest that had “real fringe” too. I remembered the plastic straw cowboy hat with the brown strings and the bead that pushed up the strings to keep the hat on when you were riding the range. I thought that the bead was very important, because then when you loosened the bead, the hat would lie casually between your shoulders as if to say, “I’m just taking a break before the next herd rolls in.”

As only an eight-year-old could, I’d wanted that outfit with all the passion my wiry little body could contain. And as an eight-year-old could, I’d hounded by mother throughout the summer about Santa remembering my cowboy outfit. And as only an 8-year-old could, I’d forgotten about the outfit by the time I made my list for Santa. It was only in the down-time of New Year’s Day that I remembered. Somehow forgetting the cowboy outfit made me want it all the more. Now I wanted it with the desperation that comes with knowing it was an impossible wish. I turned to God in that hour, telling God to make sure that Santa didn’t forget about my cowboy outfit for next Christmas. I was convinced that God had a red-phone connection to Santa.

That New Years Day was a desultory one. Dinner at 2 o’clock was a painful reminder of the Christmas dinner that I didn’t wear my cowboy outfit to. After dinner, my mother told us that they needed to talk to us in the living room. We never went in the living room unless it was a special occasion or we were in trouble. I was thinking that New Years Day wasn’t a special enough occasion to warrant the living room as I dragged myself in there – still moping about the cowboy outfit that never was. My mother explained to us that Santa had left notes on some of the presents this year, asking my Mom and Dad to save them for New Years Day. As soon as she said that, I knew. God had gotten through to Santa. I was so sure of what lay beneath the Christmas wrapping paper that I took my time, savoring the buildup to the moment when red and gold would fall away to reveal brown and white. And there it was. Genuine brown felt suede pants and plastic leather vest. My cowboy outfit.

I remember sitting in the living room chair, running my hands over the cloth – fingering the fringe, sliding the bead up and down the brown strings. I sat still for so long, my mother asked me if I was disappointed in the present. I said “oh no Mommy!” and rushed upstairs to try it on.

But as I had sat there in awe of my good fortune, it wasn’t finally having the outfit that was making me so still. I knew that in that moment, I was holding in my lap proof positive that God existed. I knew Santa did – there were always pictures and movies about Santa- and besides, Santa proved himself every December 25th. But God was different. God was so big to me at eight that God was unreachable. God was vast, male, scary and boomed when he talked. God was like a giant version of my father. God was way too big to talk to, and way way too busy to listen to me - what with all the things going on in the world. I figured that God didn’t have the time for little kids so he gave us parents to fill in.

But here I was with the cowboy outfit. As I sat there marveling at my changed life circumstances, I knew that God loved me. Somehow in the middle of all God had going on, God had heard my wish for a cowboy suit, and passed it on to Santa. God wasn’t too busy for me.

On New Years Day when I was eight, God became small enough for me to wear. The rest of that day and for many many days after, I wore my cowboy outfit as any rambunctious eight year old would - galloping through the house swathed in the brown felt suede pants and plastic leather vest that made me a child of God.

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