The year my daughter turned four we were given an outlandish, culturally inaccurate, porcelain nativity set. In my preschooler’s opinion the very best feature was the tiny blond baby she could take right out of the manger.
She was fascinated to the point of obsession with that little guy.
To avoid broken figurines and cut fingers we strictly forbade her to touch Jesus, so naturally he sprang up all around the house: tucked between the stems of house plants; scotch taped to dining room table legs; on the counter in the bathroom napping in toilet paper nests. When our backs were turned she’d sneak under the tree and playact the Christmas story. “Hey you guys,” I heard her say while marching a shepherd up to the stable, “Got any Jesus in there? God’s ferries told my sheep to get over here and give him a sniff.”
|Haba Nativity Blocks
Just before Christmas baby Jesus disappeared. We hunted for him everywhere. The season passed; decorations were dismantled; the manger and all the figurines were packed away with one notable exception. Baby Jesus was gone, never to be found.
During my holiday shopping this year I made a rather sweet discovery: a Nativity set made to be played with. I don’t normally make it my business to speak on behalf of the Christ child, but I’m pretty sure he would approve.
|Holden Observatory, Syracuse University, Winter Solstice 2011
Happy Winter Solstice. Today the axial tilt of Earth’s Northern Hemisphere is farthest from the sun creating the shortest day and longest night of the year. Cultural rituals acknowledging this day have existed since Neolithic times. As a human race we seem inexplicably rejuvenated by repetition.
Events like today comfort me. Religious proselytizers who have commandeered astronomical events for ideological purposes throughout history notwithstanding, I am in awe of unalterable universal laws that keep things moving. Even before we were here. Even after we are gone.
The first snow is falling. Tigger and I went schlepping through it under a colorless sky. Even before I pulled on my boots I could hear those crazy birds squawking over developments in the hen yard. The dog shot off like a rocked but later I found her panting at the back door, evidently cured of cabin fever. I feel like decorating for Christmas.
When my baby was still fragile and helpless she abruptly took it upon herself to walk. Time and again I placed her back on her diaper-clad bum and scolded, “No, no, little one, that behavior is not for the likes of us.” One cannot be too vigilant when reasoning with a baby about the perils of leaving mother’s nest prematurely.
Then I made a tactical error: one afternoon I left my baby in my mother’s care. Upon my return mom exclaimed in delight, “The baby is walking!” Rather than expose myself for the repressive psycho I had evidently turned into I went along with the
heartbreak joy of my daughter’s blossoming autonomy. Hurray.
And so it goes. My girl has grown and discovered and torn herself savagely from me and in return I have endeavored to be her encourager and champion and advice-giver [when she will allow it]. Each time a certain light shines in her eyes – the one that ignites when she tries something new and feels the exhilaration of personal accomplishment – I record the milestone in a place in my heart only parents know about.
On Monday my baby turned 15. Despite my meddlesomeness she has emerged a lovey, spirited, smart, self-sufficient young woman.
I am so grateful she has spent the last fifteen years perfecting ways of ignoring nearly everything I say.