Burrito Christmas


Downtown Salt Lake City was lit up like a Christmas tree. Shoppers laden with an abundance of bags of beautifully wrapped packages ran from store to store, purchasing this and that. Groups of carolers sang out the melodies of good tidings, welcoming in Christmas and the New Year to everyone. Snowflakes with many glorious patterns sprinkled like fairies’ dust over the city streets. There was a feeling of love towards everyone on earth.

I was walking with my dad on Temple Square, admiring the shimmering lights. Our family had planned to spend an enjoyable evening listening to the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus and looking at the lights. My mother, my two brothers, and my two sisters were already seated, and my dad and I were going to meet them. We arrived only eight minutes late, but the ushers wouldn’t let us in. We explained that half of our family was already seated, but “policy was policy,” and Dad and I were left out in the cold—the cold snow to be exact.

“Oh, Dad, we were planning on a family activity tonight,” I moaned with disappointment. “Now what are we going to do?”

“Let’s dash over to the visitors’ center,” he replied, with typical enthusiasm. “We’ll be out of the cold, and we can catch a tour while we wait for the others.”

By the time we made our way through the crowds and into the visitors’ center, the last tour had already begun, and the lady at the desk was announcing that the center would close in 15 minutes. Hungry, tired, and discouraged, I plopped myself on one of the benches and tried to tune out my dad’s effort at cheery conversation.

Moments later, my mom rushed in with my brothers and sisters, chattering about how worried they had been and how glad they were to find us.

“Okay, kids,” Dad announced, “we missed the concert, and the visitors’ center is closing, but such a lovely evening should not be spoiled; so I’m treating you all to burritos!

“Yahoo!” we shouted.

“Honey,” my dad said to my mom, “how much money do you have in your purse?”

“Uh, I didn’t bring my purse—not even my checkbook.”

“Oh, no,” I muttered, “my mom always brings her purse, and she had to forget it tonight.”

“Well, kids, I don’t have any money except for one dollar,” my dad said sadly, as he rummaged through his wallet. “Check your pockets for spare change.”

Between the seven of us we came up with an additional $1.37. How was our family going to eat out on two dollars and 37 cents?

“I promised you all burritos,” Dad announced, “and a promise is a promise. So, c’mon, I’ll race you all to the car!” The twinkle in his eye confused us all, but he had already set a brisk pace. We didn’t ask how or why; we just hustled along behind.

Curiosity and suspense mounted as we drove to the restaurant. How could a family of seven be going out to dinner with less than $2.50 and no credit cards?

When we arrived, Dad escorted us in, seated us at a table, and stepped up to the cashier to place his order.

“Are you sure that you only want one burrito?” inquired the puzzled cashier.

“That’s it,” answered my dad.

“Sir,” she asked, “are you positive you wouldn’t like any drinks?”

“Yup, only one burrito. I can’t afford drinks.”

Overhearing his conversation, we burst into giggles and imagined that everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. Giggles turned to hysteria as we watched Dad carry his order to the table as if it were a wedding cake on a silver platter. Carefully, he cut the single burrito into seven bite-sized pieces and presented one to each of us ceremoniously. Dad savored his bite of burrito as he would escargot and reminded us that it’s not what you get in life that counts—it’s how it’s served. Dad always has a mini-sermon to share, but this one we truly savored. He told us of a boyhood Christmas with only one orange but lots of love, of folks he knew with lots of money but poor health, and of friends with great material wealth but no family to share it with.

It took us less than a minute to devour our share of that single burrito, but somehow as we left, I felt full of appreciation for good health, a fun family, and a rather zany dad who taught me that sometimes a burrito Christmas outing can be the one you treasure most.

[illustration] Illustrated by Lee Shaw