Virtual Voices

My misguided Christmas mission, or how I met the Queen of Nativities

"My misguided Christmas mission, or how I met the Queen of Nativities" Continued...

I was on a roll, basking in my self-righteousness and martyrdom. Had Christmas really come to this, my mind continued, that a woman who could walk into any shop and pay full price for a perfectly lovely nativity scene would snatch a cheap one from the grasping hands of an innocent babe whose parents were toiling in financial straitjackets to allow her middle-aged mom to stay at home and bring up perhaps the only child they would ever have?

Heaven was silent.

The next day was Sunday, the college bowl season was in full swing, and the Queen was leaving in the afternoon for an out-of-town football game (one that my husband and I would've normally attended, but this year couldn't afford). She had at first contemplated sending her parents to meet me at the store to make the exchange, but her father had Alzheimer's and might get lost no matter how deftly her mother tried to steer him. I assured her that I would be prompt so that she could leave on time for her trip.

We met, the transaction was completed, and the Queen Mother observed to me in a private moment that she could not believe her daughter had put me through so much trouble and especially over such a thing. I protested politely that it really hadn't been a problem, then added truthfully that I was convinced God had wanted that nativity in His house instead of ours.

And why not? Would some struggling soul strike out for our house, 11 months hence, searching frantically for hope among the knick-knacks we had assembled to amuse our daughter and celebrate the season? And how much would our toddler really come to understand by looking at those figures: kings stricken with humility, shepherds enjoying first-class accommodations in a way they could never explain, a new mother with more on her mind than whether the diapers she used would make more trouble for the landfill?

Unless we did a lot more than set out the little crèche once a year, not much. Not much at all. In time, she would have understood that the easy way for Mommy and Daddy to communicate was to go out and buy the perfect prop, or better yet, let her do it. Certainly she would not have comprehended that people who love that manger baby don't care if they never get another Christmas gift of any kind.

I saw the Queen again not too long ago. She and her mother were slowly making their way across the parking lot of one of our new superstores. Her father was not around; I didn't want to know why. She was bending over her mother, a loving expression on her face, a patient pace to her gait. The picture was enough to make me speculate that HRH actually was only a nice lady with maybe a bit too much shrewdness in her dispensation of a dollar. I wanted to wish her "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," but it was the wrong season. So I just stood there, blushing at what I had learned about myself.

God Save the Queen.

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