Tidings of Craziness . . . and Joy
May I please be excused from blogging today?
No, I'm not downloading coupons and amassing enough food for a small, third-world country for $25.32 -- like Sariah. I'm not celebrating my fame and fortune at Walt Disney World -- like Jeff. I'm not working feverishly toward a book deadline -- like Julie. And -- unlike Rob's -- my heart is working just fine, thank you very much. (Feel better, Rob!) Rather -- like Stephanie -- I am eyebrow-deep in celebrating a birthday. Jesus's birthday. (Which, they told me only after I joined the Church, tends to come about three months early in these latter days.)
I'm celebrating the old-fashioned way, of course, by throwing a party for more than a hundred of my closest friends here in Chino Valley. Everybody (and their sheep) come to our ward Christmas party. It's tomorrow night . . . and I'm trying frantically to check off everything on my three-foot-long to-do list. Twice.
No, the party's arrival is not a surprise, exactly. I was called to the activities committee back in May -- and given a calendar by July or so -- but December snuck up on me while I was pondering how to celebrate Columbus Day. But, hey, I have a tree! And, if you peek around the corner of our house, you will see that I also have six scarecrows leaning against the wall. (Their sunflowers are covered with an inch of snow and they look beyond bewildered.) Worse, if you look up in the lattice work around the porch, you'll see a large, rubber spider still hanging around from Halloween. If I can find the step ladder, I'm going to put a Santa hat on his head and a sprig of mistletoe between his teeth. It would be rude of you to notice the shredded hammock swinging from the bare apple tree, and/or the brightly-colored croquet balls frozen into the tundra that used to be our front lawn. -- so I know you won't.
I'm a little behind. Unfortunately, like the Grinch, I couldn't stop Christmas from coming; it came. And now that it's here, I have two Marys, one Joseph, three angels, four shepherds, and five wise persons to costume before tomorrow night. Yes, you read that right: five wise persons. Apparently, Lucy Van Pelt was not the only girl envisioned herself as a Christmas Queen. Every little girl in our Primary who didn't get to be Mary -- and I have two of those! -- wanted to be one of the three wisemen. Before I could protest I thought, why not? Nowhere in scripture did anybody ever deliniate the number of visitors that arrived after the holy birth. There may have been three, or four, or ten. I happen to have five. As for the gender thing that so concerned my daughter, well, who's to say all the wise people of the time were male? "Men" is generic in scripture. Right? I mean, "men are that they might have joy" is not meant to exclude half the human race. At least I hope it isn't. Some days -- like the ones I spend sewing costumes, baking cookies, stuffing 96 name-embroidered stockings, typing up a program, pressing tablecloths, testing strings of lights, constructing a stable from cardboard, and decking the cultural hall with boughs of faux holly -- make me wonder.)
So, you can see why I can't blog. What I haven't really gotten around to mentioning is the absolute . . . joy . . . this all is to me! I'm putting on my 20th Christmas pageant tomorrow night. (This is not counting the 15 community extravaganzas my mother involved me in during childhood.) Every single play has been a disaster waiting to happen. In rehearsals I've endured fierce stuffed sheep fights, wisemen who wandered off into the halls, Josephs and Marys who refused to stand within ten feet of one another for fear of Christmas Cooties, and the "baby Jesus" being hiked across the room like a swaddling-wrapped football. I've worked with kids dressed as camels, kids so high on sugar and dreams of Santa that you practically had to nail their feet to the floor, and angels who had clearly escaped from . . . that other place.
But in every performance I've seen miracles. A decree goes forth from Caesar Augustus and all the room is transformed. Never does the spirit of Christmas -- the Spirit of Christ -- shine more brightly than in the faces of children in a Christmas pageant. It is the highlight of my year. I won't be surprised if someday it proves to be the highlight of my whole life.
Of course, somebody has to get those kids into costume first. I'd really better go see to that. Also, I have other Christmas-related challenges, as you can see from the picture below. My daughter worked hours on this gingerbread scene. (Don't you love the wolf pack in the forest? It's my favorite part.) Alas, it is my responsibility while she is away to keep our three wildcats from "drinking" from the river, biting the coconut from the trees, batting the candies from the pathways, and generally re-enacting one of the final scenes from Kat Kong by crunching the storybook cottage.