The two boys, ages 4 and 2, looked up at mom with cherub-like guileless faces.
“Nativity?” said the oldest. “What’s a Nativity?”
Mom and dad had already swept the house, looked in places reasonable and not-so-much but nary a sheep. No straw, no stable, no star.
Up on the mantle, way, way beyond the reach of the two normal – and thus very, very active – preschool boys, was the expensive set.
The Deluxe Edition 16 Piece 10 Inch Christmas Nativity Set with Real Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh, and a certificate of authenticity to prove it.
At floor level, was – or had been – the cute kid’s version. On sale at Walmart, “durable” was in big letters, bold print. Nine figures all told, even the angel, ox, donkey and lamb had a happy smiley face.
“Interactive fun for smaller children” was another plus. Especially for two boys, one who “loves all things science” and the other “naturally athletic and quite fearless,” says the mom in their Christmas card we received the other day.
The father has broken maybe every bone necessary to mountain bike up and over cliffs, logs, wherever the trail leads. And, like father, like sons, give them a durable Nativity and “durable” will be tested.
Last year durable baby Jesus arrived at the Nativity on a monster truck. “Grave Digger” the boys called it. Remote controlled with forward, reverse, left and right steering, and oversized monster truck tires, Grave Digger (recommended for ages 4 and up but, hey, close enough) with baby Jesus bouncing along in the cab, braked to a side-slipping stop just before careening into the shepherds who had already arrived by foot.
Awaiting the angels to appear, the stable roof – with Mary and Joseph smiling down below – became a ramp and air time (the science half of the duo) was surely better than that of dad on the mountain biking trail, right? I mean that’s what the boys wanted to know when visiting dad in the hospital where he had been airlifted.
Dad had the presence of mind while being loaded in the helicopter to ask if someone could remember to bring his bike too, but he wasn’t sure they heard him above the din.
Dad had broken bones, but the boy’s Nativity was durable, the plastic-roof-of-the-stable-turned-ramp being the idea of the “naturally athletic and quite fearless” two-year-old.
The other day the three boys (that would include dad) celebrated the eldest’s birthday at – where else – the World of Speed Museum. Dad drove a 1995 Lola-Mercedes Benz T9500 Indy Car in a simulation. The boys got to test their drag racing reaction time and repair a car of their own.
There is quiet time – I mean other than actual sleeping – at their home as I follow this extension of our family on Face Book.
Briefly. There is quiet briefly.
Mom writes, “A loud whirlwind of short-legged chaos swirls around me. I start listening to this stunning music (Christmas medley). The chaos ceases and hops in my lap for a tender moment of awe and peace.
“The ruckus begins again (audible sigh).
“It was lovely while it lasted.
“I’ll listen again when the whirlwinds go to bed and I can breathe in the beauty.”
How precious are those moments when feeding their “insatiable appetite for hugs and cuddles” they crawl up into mom’s lap to experience “awe and peace.”
And then return to their rambunctious antics with a Nativity Set found by mom and dad after all in the toy box with all the other durable – mostly – imaginations of children.
Post Script – This story is, for the most part, true. I wasn’t there when the monster truck arrived scattering the sheep, but my wife and I have four children and seven grandchildren, so I can most truthfully say from experience that too soon the whirlwinds go off to college, to careers, to places their adventuresome souls seek, and to families of their own.
And they come back, all of them, all at the same time, this time of year, every year.
And perhaps at your home as ours, the mantle manger scene will shine below the star, and with the lights softly twinkling on the tree, we’ll read the Christmas Story and give gifts.
And there will be peace on earth – or at least in our home.
Erin Mullins, loved-on by two of her three boys (dad – and husband – Jon is taking the picture), Seth and Kesten.