Sometimes my kids just make me smile. You don’t have to hang out around here long to figure that out, and Christmas time is ripe for smiles. Drummer Boy, Bug and Baby Girl are getting to the ages when they can remember the traditions, decorations and fun activities from previous years. They are beginning to have their own memories of Christmas and their own treasured moments.
We have Christmas everywhere at my house. My mom shared with me the joy of celebration from a very young age and filled our holidays with memories and special decorations I looked forward to each year. I’ve tried to do those same things with my own kids and it’s very special to me to see their eyes fill with wonder and excitement as they see the traditions — and even remember some of them from last year.
Of course, my babies already seem to have their own take on the process of celebrating Christmas. I have several nativity scenes around the house — some I’ve gotten just so they can play with them. Most are inexpensive versions given to me or picked up from the dollar store for their particular kid-like cuteness. They each have the requisite super-glued parts — evidence that they have just enough combination of doll and action figure familiarity to make them attractive for playing and storytelling.
I always set them up in the same way. The way most folks do I guess. The baby is in the center, flanked by Mary and Joseph. The wise men file in from the baby’s left with the occasional camel in tow. They were, after all, from the East. The shepherds and members of their flock take their places to the right and the barn’s resident cow and donkey stand wherever available. An angel usually stands behind the babe overseeing the scene. Oddly, the people always seem to be facing outward — so we can see them, I guess. I’m not sure why they logically have those assigned seats in my mind, but they do.
A funny thing happened this year. One of the $5 dollar store versions sits on a table next to our couch. It’s a tiny porcelain collection of child characters painted with sweet smiles and pastel colors. A week ago I noticed that every time I walked by the table, the figures were moved to the same position. At first I didn’t really pay attention. The kids like to play with the set, which makes me smile. So, when I saw the rearrangement, I simply moved the figures back to their assigned spots and went on about my business.
Only, they caught my attention again later. The figures were again shifted from the standard positions I’d given them. And they were shifted to the same new positions. In fact, I noticed the same reorganization of players in some of our other crèches. Hmmm. Cue the mommy brain. I think my kids were demonstrating their own preferences for the nativity scene.
So, I looked closer. Baby Jesus was in the center, to be sure, but the others weren’t stretched out in a pageant-esque tableau. No, the onlookers were standing shoulder to shoulder in a tight circle around the holy child. They seemed to be crowded in as close as possible with each animal and child-like character gazing at the newborn king. You couldn’t see all their cutely painted faces from across the room. The wise men didn’t appear to be traveling together — or coming from the East, for that matter. And, although I doubt you could even tell they were supposed to be a “manger scene,” I imagine in the thoughts of my Drummer Boy, Bug and Baby Girl, each little colorful porcelain heart had a necessary unobstructed view of the tiny Savior. Each was looking full-faced and undistracted upon the baby in the hay.
I haven’t moved the figures since. They are still staring, quite focused, on the Christ child. And I have to admit my own heart is a little more focused as well because of it. My attention is drawn to the baby birthed in such humble circumstances, yet carrying the seed of heaven in his tender chest. To the little hearts running around me, full of constant energy and motion. Somehow they are my very own heart looking right back at me. I’m drawn to the simple messages of loving and giving and hoping and unabashed gazing they seem to find so easy to comprehend. The messages that are so easily clouded from my view at times. What a pleasure to turn my own full gaze to the manger and see that wonder again.