For many people, the setup and display of the nativity scene is a special if not solemn occasion. First there is the delicate unwrapping of each figurine, and then the precise placement within the manger scene. It's Norman Rockwell come to life, complete with carolers at the door, a roaring fire and a steaming cup of spiced holiday cheer.
I'd like to tell you that at my house it was just like that. But bald-faced lies fall directly into the "naughty" category, so, in the spirit of the season, I'll come clean: I never got around to putting away the nativity from last year.
The baby Jesus, the shepherds, sheep, kings and donkeys enjoyed an extended stay at Racho del Tuna, also known as the living room side table. They saw the Christmas Tree go up, fall down (twice!), and leave in an explosion of dried needles. They rang in the New Year. They celebrated Kwanzaa. And Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And Valentine's Day. And St. Patrick's Day...
That spring, in a fit of long-overdue embarrassment, I finally relocated the gang of twelve. No delicate repacking for me. I skipped the middleman and threw them into a holiday relocation program, on top of my armoire. Everybody seemed to enjoy their new digs except the sheep and the oxen, who, in silent protest, spent the summer months hurling themselves into my trashcan.
This November, in a fit of room-cleaning frenzy, I put broke every holiday rule I had (I only have rules about when to put OUT, not when to put AWAY) and decided to put out the nativity scene early. I grabbed the guys and handed them over to TinyTuna and told her she could set them up however she liked.
It was as if I handed her the keys to the kingdom. She arranged them this way and that for over a half-hour. Guys in a straight line. Guys in a circle. Wishbone, Nickel and I-formation. Kings off to the side as if they were in a royal time out. Each arrangement (as she explained to me as if I were a slow, slow child) had its own justification. She was the Manger Manager -- the Offensive Coach for Team Jesus -- putting them through their moves.
And I don't know about you, but every year, our nativity scene gets guest stars. Hello, black Halloween cats that I haven't put away yet! Welcome, Ghost Peeps of Holidays past! I've even been witness to the adoration of the Unicorns, Beanie Babies, Barbies and Penguins. And this year? Oh baby Jesus. Look who's come to visit this time.
Say hello to the three wise giraffes.