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A Few of My Favorite Things II

April 14, 2008

When I was growing up, this nativity was always on the mantel over the fireplace at Christmastime.

At some point, either when I was looking for some decorations for my apartment years ago, or perhaps when I was married and we were buying our first house, my Mom offered the nativity to me. I of course snatched it up immediately.

Christmas at the Bennett house was always a good time. We didn’t go too heavy on the decorations: a wreath on the front door, some electric candles in each window, a live Christmas tree laden with an eclectic assortment of ornaments and a train set running underneath. And always this nativity in the center of the mantel.

I spent hours, I know, gazing at this set when I was a child. The figures are glued in place, so I couldn’t move them around… but I didn’t care. I would often bring it down to the floor and set up a more elaborate display, embellished with additional plastic sheep, cows, and other farm animals that I had in my toy collection. Of course every animal or person that was added had to be looking at Jesus.

I’m not sure when or how my parents acquired the nativity… whether it had been given to them, or if they had purchased it themselves somewhere. I do remember thinking that it was old because, you know, to a young child it certainly looked old and rustic. Then one day I recall being out at the mall with Mom and/or Dad during the Christmas shopping season, and there inside one of the stores I saw several similar nativities for sale. It was a little disconcerting, because I had been under the impression that no one else had a set like ours.

Nonetheless, it was special to me.

Years later, I still treasure this little manger scene. It’s really something, to look at an object and still see it exactly as you did decades before. Joseph still has his slightly rosy cheeks and his neatly coiffed 70s hairdo. Those sheep still sit there in front of the manger, each with one nimble leg stretched out in perfect symmetry to each other. Mary still kneels there, dressed impeccably in blue (after a night of labor?!). It’s hard to just look at it in passing… I generally find myself picking it up and staring at it for lengthy periods when it is out. As if the figures are finally going to move or speak. Or perhaps I might notice some new detail that I’ve overlooked in the past 30 or so years.

Out of the hours I spent in fascination over this little creche came the love I have today for all nativities. It is difficult for me to walk past a display of them in a store; I have to look them all over and decide whether I can add any to my growing collection. I currently have about 30 different sets in all shapes and sizes — each one special for its own reasons.

But it just isn’t Christmas until this one is brought out and set in a place of prominence in our house.

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