Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Maurine's Manger Scene

My dirty little secret today is that I haven’t decorated for Christmas yet and I’m tempted to not do anything at all. Beaven and I have turned into a couple of sloppy cave dwellers, like hermits, who only sporadically invite the outside world to see our cave. And the way this year’s Christmas schedule works out, nobody, including family, will see the inside of our cave until well after the holidays. Why bother? Why should I haul out all those boxes from storage just for Beaven and myself?

I did get a nativity scene in Guatemala this summer. I thought I’d add it to the regular scene I’ve put out since the girls were little. My dream is to re-create the manger scene one of the ladies in our church, Maurine Bickle, had for years and years. It was the largest and most unusual nativity I’ve ever seen in my life. She died a few years ago and I called her son to try to find out what happened to it. I hinted quite bluntly that he donate it to the church. But I’m afraid he’s stored it away in some cold outdoor storage building and we’ll never see it again. It was just a fascinating array of figurines, the likes of such you will never see anywhere else.

When Maurine moved into the retirement center she asked them if she could put it out for Christmas. Sure thing, they assured her and brought out a tiny little table. Everyone who knew Maurine laughs at this story. The retirement center eventually had to get out three full-size dining room tables to display it all. She had been adding to it for probably 40 years by inviting the children in her Sunday School class to bring something to include in the Christmas story. I loved going by her classroom at Christmas to see it.

There was Baby Jesus, of course. And Joseph and Mary. But that’s the extent of any limitations Maurine made on the Christmas story. Her nativity had more than three wise men. There was every kind of camel, lamb, and cow you could find as well as horses, pigs, chickens, geese and sheep. All sizes, shapes and colors. All made of ceramic, glass, plaster, plastic, wood and yarn. A whole army of shepherds; in fact, even a few green plastic army men. Certainly there was a heavenly host of angels. I spotted the bride and groom long since taken off the wedding cake as well as Fisher-Price play people and a couple of Weebles. In Maurine’s Christmas story, the whole world turned out to see the Messiah.

Every time I went in to look at it I learned some new theological tidbit. I’ll never forget the time I spotted a plastic snake. What an amazing world God created for us to think that the snake came to see the baby Jesus! One year, I found a tiny little pile of red cellophane and sticks. I asked Maurine what it was. “Well, a little campfire, of course. It got cold out there at night.”

Our youngest daughter, Emily, was lucky enough to be in Maurine’s Sunday School class when she was 3 years old. One Sunday that Christmas Emily came to the door of the classroom with a tiny little advent wreath made of Styrofoam and birthday candles. Maurine was quite adamant in her announcement, “Now, Mamas, you’ll need to watch this wreath carefully,” she said. “This candle will burn down real fast.” Which, naturally I failed to do until I looked in the living room to find my antique table was on fire. All the years since, I have treasured the deep charred spot in the middle of the table as a monument to Maurine’s energy, imagination and love, not to mention of my own stupidity.

I think that’s the things I’ll get out and decorate my house with. Even if nobody sees it I’ll enjoy having Maurine and the baby Jesus with us for a couple of weeks.

1 comment:

Dana said...

You made me cry. Maurine was such a wonderful person, she made everyone feel special. When we moved back home after the fire, we had an open house. Maurine came and brought us some hand embroidered dish towels. I will never forget her looking me in the eye and telling me to USE them, don't put them in a drawer and save them. They are pretty worn now, but I still use them. Every time I get one of them out I think of Maurine and have a very warm, comforting feeling.