Thursday, December 16, 2010

The 12 Memories of Christmas: "The SNOW in the sk-y fell down where He lay ..."

So, as I was saying ...

I was a weird kid. More specifically, I was the kind of child who preferred talking to the teacher to playing at recess. I had an unusual obsession with the vending machine at one of my dad's offices. It had egg rolls in it, and as I considered my future career, the overriding criteria was "something that requires the operation of a cash register. If a scanner is involved, I will work for free." In fact, knowing this, my Uncle Bill once bought me a cash register. Mom and Daddy still have it stashed away somewhere. I can't bring myself to let them part with it, as I never know when I'll be visiting them and take a notion to play grocery store.

Given that, my Christmas wish of 1987 should come as no great surprise. What I wanted, more than anything in the world, was a nativity set. I wanted the kind that sits outside and lights up and makes your lawn look like Bethlehem ... crossed with Las Vegas. That meant that, while my 10 year old friends opened Bridal Fashion Barbie Dolls and Fisher-Price Singalong Radios, I was digging in to big boxes full of hard plastic wise men and a blow-molded baby Jesus whose head was frozen at a 30 degree angle that just could NOT have been comfortable.

Foreshadowing my future profession as a student of the theatre - a career which requires far too little use of a cash register, might I add - I was insistent that the holy family and their far-Eastern guests have a stage-like set befitting the situation. After all, we've all read Luke 2. Everybody knows that the whole thing went down in a stable.

Daddy must've been moved by my commitment to realistic storytelling. One Saturday morning, he took me to the Home Depot. There, we bought four 2X4s of varying lengths and a single sheet of plywood - the kind that looks as if it might have been ripped from the walls of the finished portion of your grandmother's basement. These components were all we'd need to create our suburban stable.

Some of you, I can hear it, are laughing now. These are the ones who know that the idea of my daddy in a Home Depot is about as funny as the suggestion that I should go to business school. In other words, the two just don't fit; nevertheless, he built that stable for me and that nativity that I had to have.

I should probably add that this was one of the two Christmas seasons that my family spent living in St. Louis. In St. Louis, it snows a lot more than it does in South Carolina. Unfortunately, Daddy and I hadn't taken this into account in building what amounted to a plywood lean-to. We were confronted with our oversight the next morning. We awoke, a chorus of "Oh, come, let us adore Him" running repeatedly through our minds, ready to "adore" the work we'd done the day before. Instead, we saw the shepherd face down in the freshly-fallen snow. Joseph and the others, who were supposed to be protected from the elements, were cowering from them instead. They were each hunched over by the roof that had severely bowed under the weight of the snow we didn't know had been fore-casted. Ironically enough, our "stable" turned out to be anything but.

I was sort of devastated by the whole thing. I guess you could call this my directorial debut, as I'd imagined this beautiful scene that would, in years to come, include the addition of other lawn art. I already had plans to ask for the donkey in 1988, and, later, an entire choir of angels. Ours, I dreamed, would be the house that people would make a Christmas tradition of driving by. But it, like my directing career, wasn't to be.

I think of this every single time I see one of those nativity sets. I think of it - and laugh - and love my daddy for building a home for my baby Jesus but even more for teaching me that His real home is in my heart.


  1. In my defense, I have always noted that my lifelong status as a "city boy" (Greenup, KY, population 1200) prevented me from learning to work with my hands or perfect manual labor tasks.

  2. I just thought they were sleeping.....on their stomachs.