Colleen Duggan

A Volcano for Christmas


My 8-year-old, Camille, is convinced the only authentic Santa to make live, in the flesh appearances is the one who visits our parish during Advent.  Mall Santas, according to the precocious Camille, are all frauds.  Her father and I were relieved consequently, when Santa made a blessed second appearance at our parish breakfast just a few days before Christmas. We’d already missed his first trip and had been informed not to bother with the mall Santa.

He wasn’t going to cut it.  

After we piled French toast, hash browns and scrambled eggs onto our plates and gobbled them down, my husband and I dutifully waited in Santa’s line—this was our last chance and we weren’t going to miss it—so our two youngest children, Camille and Edward, could have a turn with the Big Man himself. When it was finally their time, the two diminutive Duggan’s approached jolly Old St Nick.  Santa bent down and hoisted Edward onto his lap while he wrapped his other paternal arm around Camille’s waist and pulled her close.

“Hello there, little boy and little girl,” St. Nick exclaimed.

Camille and Edward grinned up at him.

“Tell me your names.”

“I’m Camille,” my 8-year-old daughter said, “And this is my baby brother, Edward.”

“Camille and Edward, wonderful names! Tell me, what is it you’d like for Christmas?”

Camille made a request for art supplies, something she’d already mentioned to us at least a dozen times already, but it was Edward’s response that surprised us. Edward looked Santa in the eye and almost whispered his request.  

“I’d like a volcano, Santa.”

Santa was quiet for a few seconds.  He’d heard his fair share of petitions for Iron Man action figures, ponies, baby dolls, and train sets but the appeal for a volcano was a little outside of the Christmas morning box.

“A volcano, huh?” Santa said. “That might be hard, Edward, but I’ll see what we can do. I’ll put my elves to work. Don’t you worry, OK”

Edward nodded up at him, smiled from ear to ear and hopped off Santa’s lap.  The assistant Elf shoved candy canes into my two children’s hand and Edward and Camille walked away from Santa, looking over their shoulders at him and waving as they went.

My husband and I were befuddled by Edward’s appeal for a volcano and we weren’t sure how to honor it.  We thought we hit pay dirt when we stumbled upon a National Geographic build your own volcano set at a craft store. We grabbed the box off the shelf, and we made Edward’s Christmas dreams came true when he opened the DIY Plaster of Paris and accompanying cone shaped mold on December 25.  

Boom. Go ahead and nominate us for parents of the year.

Still, the request for a volcano from our five-year-old son was a head scratcher. We just couldn’t figure out why that was one of the great desires of Edward’s heart until a couple of weeks ago.  Gathered around the table over plates of pot roast, potatoes, and carrots, John asked the kids, “What do you guys thing about hitting Myrtle Beach again this Summer?”

Everyone consented to the idea and we spent the next fifteen minutes dreaming about the trip together.  We were all busy sharing various ideas, when Edward put his fork down next to his bowl and asked,

“Dad, can we build volcanos in the sand again?”  

John looked at Edward, surprised.

“What?” John said to Edward.  “What do you mean?”

Edward took a deep breath.

“Remember how you and me built volcanoes in the sand every day when we were at the beach last summer, Dad?  I loved doing that. Can we do it again?”

John looked at me from across the table.

“That’s why he wanted a volcano for Christmas,” John said, realization painting his face.  “Edward and I built them while we were on vacation.  It was a good memory for him, Colleen.”

My mind flew to those days we spent together last summer on the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, when John knelt on the white sand and created large peaked volcanos with Edward.  This simple task—the building of sand castles—clearly met a deep need in our son, who desired to spend time with his Father.  Sure, Edward enjoyed the process of building something, he enjoyed the smell of the ocean and the feeling of sand as it fell in between his fingers, but most of all, he enjoyed his dad’s attentive presence.  

Edward enjoyed John and John enjoyed Edward. In the spiritual life, we call this type of communal relationship prayer. That time Edward spent with John was such a gift to him that it was the only thing his little heart desired at Christmas:  to build another volcano with his dad.

I’ll admit it, the realization moved me so deeply I booked a condo at the beach the very next day.  

It also reminded me about what happens to us when we go to our own Heavenly Father and we truly connect with him: we feel edified and nourished, just like Edward did when he built sand castles with John.  We sit in the presence of Someone who loves us not just perfectly, but completely and we feel fulfilled and satisfied. All our insecurities and obsessions about our personal weakness vanish in the face of a Dad who likes us just the way we are and even wants to spend time with us.  All our addictive compulsions evaporate in the company of a Father who fills all our deepest desires.  So much so that when the time is up, we long to recreate it, to have some more of it, to look to our Father and ask him, “When can we do that again?”  

Edward’s desire for a volcano had nothing to do with an impulse to make a Plaster of Paris mold and blow it up with baking soda and vinegar.  His wish for a volcano came from a need to spend time with his good Father, which is something we all crave in the depths of our souls.  

Colleen Duggan is an author, Catholic wife, mom of six, and speaker. She writes about Catholic family life here and her articles have also appeared on Catholic Exchange, CatholicMom.com, and Aleteia. Her new book Good Enough is Good Enough can be found on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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