There are bits of hay in the entryway, across the dining room and through the kitchen to the basement stairs. More hay is strewn all down the steps to the baby doll cradle, at the bottom of the stairs.
The cradle has been transformed into a manger.
On top of a generous bed of hay lies a brown skinned baby doll, wrapped in a red fleece blanket which is embroidered with a snowman design. The kids are enthralled with how perfect it looks. It is just exactly what they need for their Christmas pageant. They’ve been scurrying around, making preparations all afternoon, gathering costumes and necessary props, casting all their friends, writing and memorizing a script and trying to figure out how they can acquire more animals than just Drake, the family dog.
I’ve been catching tidbits of their conversations and typing them up every chance I can sneak away, so I don't ever forget.
Elli: The first wise man is bringing a gift of jewels because the baby is a king. See this pretty jar, Mom? It has all of my pretend jewelry in it. And we sprayed your perfume in it to make it just like incense. The other wise man is bringing clothes for the baby Jesus. See? A scarf and a sweater and a tank top. The scarf and the sweater are for winter, and the tank top is for summer. Actually, he could wear the tank top under the sweater, and then it could be for winter, too.
Tano: Yeah, Mom, we decided not to put those doll camouflage pants in the gift, because they didn’t really wear camo pants back then--mostly tunics and robes and stuff like that.
Elli: And I’m going to be one of the wise men. Actually, I would like to be a wise girl. Tano, can there be wise girls?
Tano: Uh, I don't know. Maybe you could be a shepherd.
Elli: I could? There were girl shepherds?
Tano: Sure. You could be a shepherdest (sic).
Elli: What's a shepherdest?
Tano: A girl shepherd.
Elli: Oh, great! Do I get to wear sandals?
Tano: Yes, you'll need sandals.
Elli: Great! I'll go get my pink flip-flops. Or should I get the ones with the cherries on them?
Tano: It doesn’t matter.
Elli: I think I want to be the angel instead.
Tano: Elli, the angel was a boy.
Elli: No it wasn‘t! Angels are girls!
Tano: Well, ok, I guess you can be the angel.
Elli: I’ll need to find something to wear that is made of pure gold, so it is shiny and beautiful.
Tano: Well, I don’t think it will need to be made of real gold. It can just be something really pretty.
Elli: Yeah, that’s why I want to be the angel, because then I get to be the one that is beautiful.
Elli: Mom! Tano says I’m fired!
Elli: Yes. He says I’m fired from the play because I can’t say my lines without the scripp (sic).
Mom: Maybe you just need to practice your lines some more so you can learn to say them without the script.
Elli: But I can’t!
Mom: Tano, did you fire your sister?
Tano: Yeah. I had to. She couldn’t learn her lines.
Mom: Maybe you could work with her a little more to help her learn them.
Tano: I’ve been trying that forever, but she says she can’t do it.
Mom: Well, if you fire your sister, you’re going to be short an angel for the play.
Tano: I could find another one. There are plenty of other girls out there.
Mom: Do you really have to fire your own sister?
Tano: Ok, Elli, do it one more time. You have to practice it over and over again to get it just right.
Elli: Tano! I’m tired of doing this! I just can’t do it without the scripp!
Mom: Tano, I have an idea. How about if you let her say it the way she wants? That way, she won’t be scared about messing up the words. She knows what the angel said to the shepherds. Elli, stand up tall and tell me, with your own words, what you would say to those shepherds in the field, if you were the angel.
Do not be afraid! Behold, I bring you good news! A savior has been born in Bethlehem...um...who is Christ the Lord!
Mom: That sounded fine to me. Tano?
Tano: Yeah. That was pretty good, I guess.
Tano and Elli: (unintelligible arguing)
Dad: What are you guys arguing about?
Tano: I keep telling Elli what to do and she won't do it!
Elli: I'm trying! It's too hard!
Tano: You're not even trying!
Elli: Yes, I...
Dad: Whoa! Time out! Tano, maybe part of the problem is that you are telling her what to do too much.
Tano: But it's my...
Dad: You both decided to do it together. Maybe you guys need to take a break from working on this play, huh?
Elli: Yeah! I need to take a break.
They did eventually perform their play, complete with a handful of other children and their parents, gathered to watch in our living room. It was a simple affair, as I recall, and was over fairly quickly. I remember that the angel did fine and that the family dog did have to play quite a few different roles. Good times, good times.