“Where is he?”
"Oh, the manger scene.”
Squishing colored clay together, his tongue stuck out of the corner of his closed lips.
“Mom? Think Grandma misses ’em?”
“Baby Jesus and th’ rest of the ‘stuff’?”
Not sure where the conversation was heading, she shrugged her shoulders, thinking, 'why not?' Running her fingers through his tossed cowlicks, she suggested an immediate drive to the local retailers to pick one out.
“No, Mom! I could make her some.”
“OK, like a drawing? She'd enjoy that. Could hang it in her room.”
“No, outta this,” and he opened his still dimpled fingers to show his Mother the balled clay.
For the next two hours, Mikey diligently worked, hand-sculpting lumps into camels with long necks, standing them on wooden toothpick legs. White sheep, pricked patiently with a fork were magically changed from irregular shapes into elements of grace. A hot pink florescent cow, stuck with tiny flattened balls of white wore spaghetti shaped horns as a priceless crown. Red chickens with tiny beaks of blended yellow and red, adhered their orange pieces to the formed chicken-like heads. Three Wise Men, one blue, one red, one white, stood patriotically on thick legs, wearing preformed thumb bowl sized hats as crowns. Mikey dug through the kitchen junk drawer and discovered small jewel-like pieces of metallic confetti and patiently covered each crown with the faux of earth’s own secret stash. An angel, of white Play Dough wore wings blended with a peppering of glitter also found in the handy junk drawer. Mary, dressed head to toe and in-between, was awash in bright blue, folded sort of in half, then again as an “S” shape of femininity to kneel over the upcoming child. Joseph, also blue, wore a cape of multicolored worms pressed vertically together to cloak over his form. Mikey, putting the fork to good use, gave both Joseph and Mary a combing over their marble sized heads to create locks of hair. Two shepherds, one pink, on blue, “cause both boys an’ girls can be shepherds,” were given snake-coiled hats to wear.
The only thing left to complete the manger scene was Baby Jesus himself.
Using half a can of white dough, and kneading it with all the leftover freckled colors on the counter, he explained, “This is the aminals food dish, so’s even if Mary and Joseph hurried up to clean it, it has to look like it was used a bunch of times.”
Pressing the inside of the dough, he formed an indentation, then worked it large enough to hold the infant. The cross-beam legs of the trough were two pairs of toothpicks, “X’d” together, pushed far enough in to guarantee stability. Mikey wanted hay, but was at a loss as to how to ‘create’ it. Mom suggested the garlic press, and soon the makeshift bed heaped high with yellow perfect worms.
He pinched a dime sized pieces of red, yellow, blue, and white from each can, and mixed what was left of strayed dough together to form half as a body, half as a head. Sticking the four multi-colors on as legs and arms, he reasoned aloud “ if Jesus’ Daddy is God, then Jesus’ prob’ly every color of peoples He’d made.”
Palming his creation, he carefully pinched a hole in the center of the hay, and then put the baby on top to ‘sleep.’
“Opps! Almost f’got !” Jumping from the stool, running full tilt down the hall into the bathroom then back again, he carried two fragile squared sheets of toilet paper. “His blanket, to keep warm…” He folded to tuck both over Baby Jesus.
Impatiently, Mikey waited two days. When it was completely dry, he wrapped the fragile pieces in paper towels, and “by hisself” nestled God’s chosen in a small towel-lined box then hand carried it to the car. “Think she’ll like these ok?”
The lump in LeAnn’s throat kept her from answering.
That Christmas, Baby Jesus held the highest place of honor in a small community within a Care Facility. Besieged with requests, the lovely Christmas tree, for the first time in the Home‘s history was scooted to the right.
Many years later, Michael parked in the lot where his Grandmother once lived. Facing the large window was a small decorated tree. Around it was an assortment of odd-shaped tables, each displayed with unique hand-created manger scenes of flour and water, whittled wood, bits of material and play-doh.
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