By Elizabeth Helmer
Last year my family went to the
11PM Christmas Eve service. We started by greeting
the people near our pew. I kissed my husband and
kids then turned to my right to greet a man and a
woman I never saw before. They were eating Doritos!
Did they think this was a rock
concert? Some parishioners sneak coffee in to stay
awake when there are five baptisms but Doritos? This
was Christmas not some regular church day.
They dressed in black leather. I
wondered if they arrived on Harleys. She wore a
mini-skirt, black stockings, back stillettos, and a
black blouse. The three top buttons were unbottoned.
I wore a red wool dress, plain beige stockings, and
sensible black heels.
I reached out my hand and said,
“Peace be with you.” The man’s hand was in the
Dorito bag. He reached out his bag covered hand and
said the same. Dorito woman smiled and nodded.
I elbowed my daughter, “Look at
the Dorito couple.”
“Mom, it’s Christmas,” my seventh
grade daughter said. “They shouldn’t be allowed
“Mom, it’s Christmas!” my thirteen
year old snapped.
The first song was O Little Town
of Bethlehem. As the parishioners sang, the Dorito
couple munched. “O Little Town of Bethlehem, crunch,
crunch, crunch, how still we see thee, crunch,
crunch, crunch, above the, crunch, crunch,
crunch...” Why weren’t the ushers telling them this
is a holy service not a spectator’s event. Maybe
they’re the characters, now grown, from “The Best
Christmas Pageant Ever,” I thought.
Many times they looked at me for
cues when to stand, sit or pass something. When the
minister said the word “Offertory” I took out my
green church envelope, with check enclosed, and
wrote on the front my donation. Dorito man took out
his wallet, opened it, and removed the only bill
left, $20. I would never think of giving cash to a
church. It’s too anonymous, plus you can’t deduct it
from income taxes. It would be foolish to give my
last dollar to church. I need money for emergencies:
church donuts, cream for my coffee, and the New York
I filled out the white attendence
card indicating my family would receive communion
and handed it to Dorito man. He must have thought it
was my calling card, he smiled and stuck it in the
inside pocket of his jacket. The people in front of
us passed their white cards to the girl at the end
of the pew, and she put them into the usher’s
basket. When the usher came to our pew, I wanted to
violate Dorito man’s privacy, reach into his inside
pocket, and place my white card where it belonged.
The church secretary keeps track of who receives and
“We’re not getting credit for
communion because of them,” I whispered to my
“Mom, it’s Christmas,” my traitor
The person at the end of the pew
also has the responsibility to lead the row up to
the communion rail. Dorito woman stood up and had to
be told where to walk. At the rail they knelt, stuck
out their orange-colored tongues, and reached for
the wine with their Dorito-stained hands.
After the minister’s blessing, the
end person leads the row back to their seats. I
pantomined to Dorito woman what to do.
The last song was “Silent Night”.
The usher dimmed the church lights, after each verse
until only the nativity lights were on. I don’t know
the words to the second and third verse, and I
couldn’t see them, so I let my mind wander. Would my
daughter like the pink parka I got her? What did she
As the church lights came on, I
looked to my right, the Dorito couple wiped tears
from their eyes. I turned to my daughter and asked,
“Why are they crying?”
“Mom, it’s Christmas!”
About the Author:
Elizabeth Helmer lives in Napa, California and is
the mother of three teenagers.