Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Bovine of Bethlehem

(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star..)


Since one of his two massive, unduly large yard snow globes deflated – dog bite -- and since he has three children age 6 or less, Dr. Pickles had to make an emergency run to the Christmas ornaments store. All they had left in the blow-up department was a Christmas cow.

(Yeah, I didn’t know they made those either.)

The cow was immediately throw into the mix, joining the surviving snow globe, the bursting snow flakes, the lighted icicles, the shrub netting, the plastic Santa, blinking deer, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Looks like the NBC Holiday Special.

So the next night Dr. Pickles had to bring supper home. He called and asked if Wendy’s would be OK. This not only confused his oldest son, it genuinely hurt him.

“But dad,” he said over the phone, “we just got the Christmas cow. You want us to eat hamburgers, and we just got the Christmas cow? What are you, some kind of …”

Dad hung up. They had pizza with olives.

Dr. Pickles has already promised his children that the family won’t eat lamb, ox or ass, at least not until the Christmas cow is stolen, stored for the off-season, or felled by a hunter with an inflatable gun.

God bless us, everyone!

Much like Dr. Pickles’ yard ornament, “cattle lowing” was as high up the food chain as I made it in any of the Christmas pageants I was privileged to be in. Never got to be an angel or Joseph or a wise guy. Not even a shepherd. My dad, our pastor, said I just didn’t have the build for it. And you wonder why I’ve had problems…

Being both from the South and Baptist, I’ve hit the daily double on Christmas pageants. Sometimes two and three a Yuletide season. Talk to me about physics or punk rock or fiber optics. But don’t talk to me about Christmas pageants. I know about Christmas pageants.

(Except I don’t know why they call them “pageants” instead of the more workmanlike “play” or “presentation.” Pageant? Will Mary show up in an evening gown instead of maternity wear? An angel in a two-piece? Will Little Drummer Boy play while our judges tabulate final scores? We’ve got our hands full with the virgin birth, don’t you think?; let’s keep the rest of this thing simple.)

Christmas plays are not immune to fumbles. If you can’t think on your feet, go stand over there with the lowing cattle.

Case in point: a play last week that Dr. Pat attended. His young granddaughter Kate was narrating. In the dark. A voice in the wilderness. With only a pen light.

Kate was steady and Mary was solid, unlike the shepherds and wise men, who started shuffling almost immediately. Girls are glue. Boys are shufflers. Note this in your next Christmas play.

The best part came when Kate’s pen light died. Without missing a beat, she turned on her cell phone and read by its light. As her granddad said, “Talk about a light in Bethlehem!”

A Christmas miracle. She gets this year’s “Hark!” Award.

My favorite Christmas play moment: The first-grade couple was coming up the aisle, having rehearsed all week with the narrator reading, “Mary, who was great with child….” The translations were switched on game night. The narrator read, “Joseph went with Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was pregnant.”

Joseph stopped and, to Mary, his betrothed, screamed, very hurt and very unrehearsed, “Pregnant? You’re PREGNANT?!”