I love this nativity set.
I don’t remember whether my mother bought me the starter kit or whether –after months of fruitless hinting- I finally broke down and bought it myself… but no matter. I love it. Now, years later, we have a village full of figures, but in those early years we just had the Holy Family and a couple of animals with a length of cotton batting to stand on and maybe an upturned basket as a stable. The kids loved it anyway. They’d arrange and rearrange the little plastic figures. They’d set them in front of their places at mealtimes, offering them bits of muffin or peanut butter sandwiches. Baby Jesus would play in the cotton batting “snow”. Mary would wrap him in blankets of tissue or paper towel. Joseph took good care of the lone oxen and kept the basket-stable in good repair with tools borrowed from Playmobil compatriots. It was a good life… for a young plastic family.
It was during one of those early holiday seasons however, that disaster struck. The girls and I came in from an afternoon of sledding to find that the Baby Jesus had gone missing. He turned up hours later in a corner of the living room, but despite our initial relief, it was immediately apparent that we had A Problem.
I’ll never know for sure what caused our extraordinarily mature and self composed old dog Bear to gnaw on that particular little chunk of plastic… I suspect it might have had something to do with the cheeseburgers we’d had for dinner the previous evening, and the generous impulses of a then two-year-old Amelia, but as I said, I couldn’t be sure. And no matter, gnaw he most certainly did and our little plastic baby Jesus would never be the same. Thankfully, blessedly, his little head and torso were largely unscathed, but his hands and feet were cut through with teeth marks. One of the tiny heels was almost completely separated from the leg and the poor little hand on that same side was hanging on by a mere string of vinyl.
The girls were distraught. Amelia carried him around in the pudgy sticky palm of her left hand for the rest of the afternoon, gently stroking his little ungnawed tummy with the index finger of her right hand.
“Don’t worry honey,” I said soothingly. “Mommy can buy us a new one.”
“A new one?!” She looked at me with horror and not a small measure of disgust.
“And just what would we do with this one, then?” asked Louisa accusingly. She put her hand on her scrawny six-year-old hip and looked steadily into my eyes.
And aye, there indeed is the rub… one can’t just toss a Holy Infant in with the kitchen trash, now can one? Or burn such a thing up with discarded Christmas wrapping paper? No, certainly not. Not even a plastic-been-chewed-by-the-dog-Holy-Infant.
So we gently placed him back in his manger. On New Year’s Day we packed him up, wrapped together in the same piece of tissue as his parents “so they wouldn’t be lonely,” just like always. During the year I plotted. I looked at Fontanini catalogs. I searched Ebay. I probably called every Christmas shop in the Northeast, but I never could find the right figure to replace our damaged one.
Next year, I thought.
But the next year, we bought the stable instead. My mother found the old man offering a hat full of eggs and gave it to us at Thanksgiving. The year after that we added shepherds, then sheep. I couldn’t resist the peasant mama bringing her toddler to worship the newborn king. It took us a few years to acquire them, but by the time Noah and Millen were old enough to play with the creche we had all three wise men as well. Somewhere along the way, what with all the packing and unpacking, playing and rearranging, Jesus’ little plastic hand finally came off. For a while we saved it carefully wrapped in a bit of tissue, but I suspect it’s long gone now. That year I bought some special glue and, in the interest of preventing further casualty, repaired the little heel as best I could. The year after that I splurged on the vintage bottle brush trees. This year I replaced the cotton batting with a beautiful table runner… but we’ve never quite gotten around to replacing that little plastic baby Jesus.
We can’t, you see.
He’s our favorite.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the table runner and tea lights were sent to me all free-like from Dayspring on the condition of me including them in a post and extolling their nifty-ness, so this is me doing that. I love Dayspring, oh yes I do.