The follow-up to Nineteen is Twenty-One. Hopefully to be released in 2020…
My mother’s Christmas decorating taste went along quite well with all of her other decorating tastes. The front-step goose was dressed in a Mrs. Santa outfit, the Japanese maple had a string of lights wrapped around it, and fake electric candles were up in all the windows. Not too over the top, like the inside of the house. Inside, it was like a Christmas ceramics explosion. Apparently ceramics were all the rage in the eighties. There were praying angels in white robes with golden wings – one boy, one girl. A kissing Mr. & Mrs. Santa. A big ceramic tree that sat in the front window that had holes for plastic pegs. The light bulb inside lit up the pegs. I was forever moving around those pegs when I was a kid. That tree contained a small music box that played “O’ Christmas Tree” or “O’ Tannenbaum” as my family said. The archaic trophies went to a resting place in the linen closet and the handcrafted nativity set came out to adorn the mantle, each piece painstakingly painted by my mom and Grandma Hedda over the course of an entire year of ceramics classes. When anyone would comment on the expansive set of Mary, Joseph, Jesus, shepherds, angel, wise men, cows, donkey, sheep, and lowly manger, my mom would note that she used a gold dust on baby Jesus’ skin because she really wanted him to be illuminated as the Light of the World. Another thing I used to do to irritate my mom when I was a kid was move the wise men to the very far side of the mantle, away from the stable, away from the Holy Family.
“Why do you keep doing this, Cameron?” she would say.
“Because the magi didn’t come to visit Jesus in the manger,” I would say. “They came much later. Weeks later.”
“Can’t you just enjoy the story? Can’t you just go along with tradition?” Then she would move them all back into their age old positions, all of them crowding around Jesus, but facing away from Him, towards us. So, then, after my correction of the wise men was overthrown, I would turn everybody towards baby Jesus.
“Cameron. Leave it alone!”
“They wouldn’t be looking at us, Mom. They would be looking at Jesus.”
“It’s just a symbol. It doesn’t need to be historically accurate.”
And at that point, the little rebel in me would take a Santa figurine and stick it in the midst of the nativity. Or replace a donkey with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. My mom would just give me the mom look and I would remind her that it didn’t have to by historically accurate. “The Bible never said that Mary rode in on a donkey. So technically, it could have been Rudolph, or even Santa’s sleigh for that matter.” I guess I was obnoxious like that.