(In the spirit of the season, I have come up with this deranged plan to write a tale, each day, involving one of the figures in any one of the crèches that so mysteriously abound in this house. The order will be random and arbitrary. I may even take suggestions, should they be offered.)
“I can’t find baby Jesus,” Leda calls from under the table.
“You know, Nana.”
“Oh, that one. Has anyone seen baby Jesus?” I ask anyone who will listen.
“What does he look like?” my daughter asks.
“A naked baby. He’s made of felt. From Nepal. I only let them play with unbreakable crèches,” I say.
“A naked felt baby immortal? No, can't say I have,” Reine says. She removes the top from the coffee grinder and abundant ground coffee spills onto the counter top and floor. In that second, I know that for days to come tiny coffee grounds will stick to my bare feet and find their way between my toes.
CSB looks up from the newspaper. “Since when do they celebrate Christmas in Nepal?”
“Everybody celebrates Christmas,” I say. “ Anyway, that crèche came from the Fair Trade Gift Market. Apparently felt is big in Nepal.”
Reine says, “Sherpas are big in Nepal. Felt is boiled wool.”
“Nana, can you help us find baby Jesus?” Leda wails plaintively. Also under the table is Kyla, who is either Leda’s best friend or her worst enemy.
“Where did you see him last?” I ask.
“Can I play with baby Jesus now?” Kyla asks. “Here, you can have mother Mary.”
“Nana, why is there only one sheep in this stable?”
“Maybe it was a small stable. Or maybe they ran out of felt.”
Leda says, “It’s better to have three sheep. No, four. Baby Jesus gets two and then Mary and Joseph each get one.”
Reine says, “I bet baby Jesus was good about sharing.”
“I shared my pink play dough with Kyla and Nana says baby Jesus never had to share his play dough.”
“Leda! I never said that. Tell your mom what I really said.”
“I don’t remember. What did you say Nana?”
“I said that…” I have no idea what I really said, and it no longer matters because someone opened the door and along with frigid air the dogs are rushing in. Daisy circles the table at a full gallop, sticks her nose under the table to annoy the girls, and then emerges with a brown object between her jaws.
Leda shrieks, “Daisy has baby Jesus. She is going to eat baby Jesus.”
Ever calm, I say, “She is not going to eat baby Jesus. She doesn’t even eat lettuce. Why would she eat boiled wool?” I take hold of Daisy, pry open her jaws, and then extract the slightly moistened baby Jesus.
“Actually she has been known to chew on squirrels and they have fur,” Reine points out, gratuitously.
“Here you go, girls. Baby Jesus, straight from the mouths of babes. Or dogs.”
“We don’t want him when he’s all slimy, Nana.” Leda tugs on Kyla’s hand. “Let’s go find our crowns and be princesses.”
(With apologies & disclaimers to Reine, Leda, Kyla and baby Jesus.)