My First Round-The-World Quest to Deliver My Daughter’s Wish.
How producing my 9-year-old's Christmas gift took me across the globe.
Author's note. This is not a story about religion. This is a story about a young girl's innocent love and connection within that relationship as she sees it. Therefore, religious terminology is used gently. Vocal's community guidelines clearly state that they uphold their intention to censor religious content. Rather than engaging in the ongoing debate of the use of religious phrasing and submission refusals with Vocal, I have chosen to edit the offending words with REDACTED in addition to blotting out offensive words and images in the embedded pictures, in order to appease the Vocal censorship committee.
By the age of six, it became evident that my daughter was a precocious child.
So often was the case that her tiny little mouth would utter old soul questions and sayings as one evening as I carried her small frame upstairs to bed, when without prompting or previous relevant discussion, she asked, “Dad? If REDACTED isn’t a human and REDACTED isn’t an angel, and REDACTED isn’t a ghost, then what is REDACTED?”
I leaned her away from my shoulder, looked into her bright, curious eyes, wondering, “Just how does a seven-year-old come up with that thought? What’s rattling around in that baby brain that makes her ask a question I’ve never contemplated?”
I had no immediate or satisfactory answer. So I reverted to the one who could answer appropriately, “Let’s call Grammie, and you can ask her.”
“Grammie,” is my mother-in-law, the loveliest, sweetest, kindest woman you could ever meet. She is also a devout REDACTED. We rang up Grammie, and my little girl was deeply engaged in the conversation. The conclusion? REDACTED is a spirit, and REDACTED is everywhere and all around us. My daughter smiled contentedly and fell asleep with peace of soul and mind.
Jumping ahead a few years, my daughter is now nine and no less inquisitive and unique in her ways. It was Christmas time, and the yuletide season is a big deal in this house. Carrying on the family traditions, my wife truly makes Christmas magical. When my daughter asked about the authenticity of Santa Claus, I held firm to the same statement of the same question asked the year prior.
“Dad?” asked my daughter as she finished watching a children’s Christmas movie, “Is Santa really real?”
“Well, Lainie,” I would respond, meeting her inquiring eyes, “I choose to believe in the possibility of all things magical and mystical, and if we believe it in our hearts, then it’s as real anything.”
My daughter would smile and answer with, “I believe he’s real, Dad. I believe in the magic of Christmas.”
And she does believe. A very short video clip of her Christmas magic. The end of the video is everything.
Each year as she scribbled out her Christmas wish list, she would have one item on the list that was a doozy. It was never anything grand or extravagant, but it was always a little unusual and required some effort for Santa to deliver under the tree.
One year it was a blue fire truck. It had to be an authentic replica, and it had to be blue. Do you know how many country’s emergency service departments use blue firetrucks? None. Not a single one. The solution? A red Lego firetruck but with as many separately purchased blue bricks to build it herself, as blue as she wanted.
Another year it was for an old-fashioned locomotive. A steam engine, but she didn’t want moving parts; she wanted a mini heavy metal, iron horse. Luckily, we happened upon an oversized Christmas ornament that fit the bill.
Christmas in her ninth year delivered the whopper, and it sent me on a quest across continents and oceans in my search. The global community of the internet would come to save me.
The item of her desire was a Shepherd’s Staff. Not a cane, not a weathered and warped walking stick but a real, honest to goodness Shepherd’s Crook.
My daughter explained that she felt it was her purpose in life to become a Shepherd presenting that she didn’t know what or whom she was to shepherd, only that “REDACTED told me I’m supposed to be a shepherd and I need a real staff to do REDACTED'S work.”
At nine. The kid’s a disciple at nine.
If you could have seen the seriousness of her intentions, the commitment in her voice, you wouldn’t have been able to dismiss this easily either.
Mom looked at Dad, and Dad went to work. It was two weeks to Christmas.
Scouring the stores in our smallish town failed to deliver any suitable options. Then I recalled the small wood carver’s shop in the neighboring village, twenty minutes away, if I was going to find a uniquely carved wooden staff that would be the place. I jumped in the car and shot over only to find that the owner had fled to warmer climates. The snowbird wouldn’t be back until February.
To add to the problem, my daughter came to me with a book. She had researched. The book, given as a gift from my sister, had a chapter dedicated to the legends of magical and powerful staffs. According to historical accounts, the staff couldn’t just be any old twig. It had to be Hazelwood.
I’ve been a woodsman all my life, and I’ve never known of Hazelwood. However, with the help of Google, I learned a few things about Hazelwood and Shepherd’s Crooks. That particular bit of lumber is predominantly found in New Zealand. I’ll say that again. The wood needed to make the Christmas gift she felt required to have, by REDACTED, was from New Zealand. We live in Canada.
Back to Google, I went. It was like following a trail of breadcrumbs. Wood here, a shepherd crook there, and a crafter to create the crook? At first, there was no one anywhere. Oh, I found a few online, but they were either retired, unreliable or unresponsive.
I was almost ready to give up.
Then, like it often does, the Universe was listening and dropped a lead. It was too uncanny a coincidence to ignore. I need a REDACTED Shepherd’s Crook, and I found a living craftsman. His name? Mark Lord and he had Hazelwood, and he was in Ireland.
Emails were sent, explanations made, details exchanged. Mark had recently given up his crafting business and had turned to a new venture in photography, but I pulled on his heartstrings. Mark couldn’t refuse my daughter’s wish. He accepted the commission. I was elated; my wife thought I was nuts. To make it even more unique and personal, Mark’s wife was an artist, and the additions of a REDACTED and my daughter’s name were added etched and inked into the ram’s horn crook.
It was brilliant, it was a victory, and it was expensive. The quoted price was around $150, but I hadn’t even considered the exchange from the British pound to the Canadian dollar. It was about $1.70 cad to 1 pound. When it was all said and done, my wife asked about the price. I cut her off and said, “You don’t want to know. It’s done.”
The only downfall was time. Delivery for Christmas was impossible. So instead, we were aiming for Easter. Now all I needed was a believable delay tactic for my daughter.
Enter Dad, the storyteller, and the spirit of Christmas legends. So I penned and printed a letter curled up into a scroll and left dangling from a branch of the Christmas tree.
This is the letter from Peter the Elf. Santa’s oldest and most trusted procurer of unique gifts.
My daughter was thrilled and beside herself with joy at the letter, and she understood the need for patience. Christmas was beautiful, and Easter was on the way.
Near Easter, an afternoon delivery brought a long, narrow box from the U.K. The handcrafted, custom-inked, REDACTED REDACTED blessed shepherd’s crook had arrived. We tucked it away in the closet for the night, opting for a sleepy Saturday morning surprise at breakfast. The reveal did not disappoint.
The power and importance of the staff became immediately apparent.
Before its arrival, my daughter refused to go down to the basement alone, but with the staff in hand, she ventured down the stairwell into the unfinished basement with confidence and not a shred of fear.
Before the staff, my daughter needed a night light kept on throughout her sleep. With the staff resting against the corner of her headboard, she slept soundly in the dark.
Before the staff, she was shy to make appearances in new places with new people. But, with the staff carried along then left in the car, she stepped forward with confidence and bravado. She told us it made her feel brave.
There are few more incidents regarding my daughter and her shepherd’s crook.
- It’s been REDACTED by no less than five REDACTED'S in five REDACTED'S.
- It’s caused my wife and daughter to miss a flight to Nova Scotia. This was due to a miscommunication between the airline and security. My daughter refused to board without the staff on the plane. Having it stored out with the strollers and walkers was fine, but she had to carry it to the plane. The airline said yes, the security checkpoint said no. Shipping via FedEx was not acceptable. Putting the staff on a later flight on its own was not acceptable.
My daughter conceded for the second flight, and with the airline acknowledging their error, they escorted my daughter down to the plane’s cargo bay. To her satisfaction, she got to watch as the baggage handlers placed the staff (double bubble wrapped and boxed) safely and securely into the cargo hold.
Since my daughter attends a REDACTED school, the shepherd’s staff and the letter from Peter the Elf made many visits. She gave presentations, told the story of its crafting and arrival, and the Ram’s Crook became the Blarney Stone of the school; all the kids wanted to touch it.
- My daughter also believes that the staff gives her the ability to command, direct and shepherd her dog and any other mutts with only a point or touch.
I like that through this beautifully crafted and profoundly personal staff, my daughter feels a little bit safer, stronger, braver and that she has something tangible to hold in her unique and special relationship with REDACTED.
Thankfully, that was the last of the arduous and elaborate Christmas gifts she came up with. I don’t think I could have made something like that happen today. But, every bit of effort was worth it.