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Thursday Thirteen, Ed.#69: A Christmas Celebration, In Thirteen Parts

December 24th, 2011

Our Sorrowful Mother

(Photo by Steve Rawley)

(this originally ran Nov. 30, 2006. happy reading :) wm)

And now, for the Thursday Thirteen you’ve been waiting for: A CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION, IN THIRTEEN PARTS:

1. Mom and I decide to take the kids to the Grotto, the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, for the 18th annual Festival of Lights. Petting zoo! Puppet show! Strolling carolers and people dressed like olden times, who ask you, “Do you know the way to Bethlehem?” (No, I don’t. But if you figure it out will you take me?)

2. I tell Mom I’ll buy her dinner first, c’mon, it’ll be fun. She is game. She tells me she’s never been to the upper level of the Grotto. I am floored by this. “IT IS SO COOL UP THERE!” I tell her. The kids: “CAN WE SEE IT? NOW, CAN WE? CAN WE TAKE THE ELEVATOR?” Me: “No, it’s dark. And there are cliffs. But next summer!” Also, I forget to bring donations for the food drive. Mom brought some stuff from her cupboard. And she insisted on buying us dinner. Wouldn’t let me pay for tickets to the festival, either. Moms are like this.

3. Both kids, shouting: “LOOK AT ALL THOSE LIGHTS! AND THE ANGELS, LIT UP! THERE ARE PEOPLE SINGING!” Followed by, “What are all those candles for?”

4. We go to the petting zoo, at Wacky Boy’s request. The volunteer gives us warnings: Don’t let the goats grab the whole ice cream cone full of feed out of our hands. Spin around if they try to. And around and around and around. Don’t give any to the alpaca. Or the horse. Or the rabbits. I lose track of all the instructions. We spin and spin. We are mauled by goats, anyway.

5. Wacky Girl: “HEY! I do remember this place!” (Good, since it’s the seventh time she’s been.) She and mom head off for the puppet show. She is the only one to call out the answer when the puppeteer asks the audience: “What does Feliz Navidad mean?” She is proud of this. She and Mom like the puppet show. Mom is wearing a cute hat, and her warm jacket. It’s not raining. Or snowing.

6. Wacky Boy refuses to leave the petting zoo. He is nuts about the bunnies. He keeps arranging their ears so they’re straight up (he does this gently, not yanking, and they don’t seem to mind), and saying, “Hey, look at my ear! It’s a spike! Hey, here’s my eye, d’ya see it? It’s my eye!” And he loves the one little white goat who follows him everywhere. We finally talk him into going to the giftshop. But first let’s stop by the church and hear the choir. When we leave the petting zoo we wash hands at the fancy outdoor sink.

7. We go into the church. I cross them both with Holy Water because, you know. We need all the help we can get. Both kids: “Hey, now my forehead’s wet!” Followed by Wacky Boy checking out the choir briefly, then announcing: “Nuh-uh, I’m not staying here,” as he heads for the door. “Later, Mom,” the usher tells me. “Someday.”

8. In the giftshop (one of two at the Grotto) we check out approximately 800 Nativity sets from around the world: Peru, Mexico, Africa. Stained glass, china, ceramic, wooden. They’re all gorgeous. Some have little villages, with markets set up with tiny displays of fruit and vegetables. Several have water features. (Not real, to my Mom’s disappointment.)

Wacky Boy: “I need you! Now! I need you now to look at this, Mom!” He drags me over to a sculpture behind glass. It’s the Pieta. “Is he dead or just sleeping?”

Me: “He’s dead. It’s after they nailed him to the cross. His mom is holding him.”

Wacky Boy shouts across the giftshop to his sister: “He’s dead! I told you. Now let’s go get a pretzel.””

9. I get hot cocoa. The kids get treats. Mom gets the check. (Mom is the star of this show, as far as I’m concerned. Her and Mary.) Then, after Wacky Boy gets the pretzel and sees his sister got a cooky, frosted, in the shape of an angel: “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I wanted a cooky!” Shoves the pretzel at me. Refuses to leave (we’re on our way to the car by now). Wants to go back to the petting zoo. Me, in hopes of distracting him: “Did you like the goats better, or the bunnies?”

Wacky Boy: “I liked the bunnies. I don’t like you.” I have to pick him up, hitting and flailing, and carry him out. He calms down briefly to play on some large tree trunks, felled cedars by the parking lot. Then hits and kicks again when I tell him we have to go.

10. On the way out I see an illuminated sign: “May the peace and hope of the holiday season fill you with joy throughout the year.” Sure thing.

11. I call Steve to tell him we’re on our way home. As soon as I hit the “call” button I forget I’m placing a call (I do this constantly), set the phone down, and start admonishing again, “That was not good behavior at the Festival of Lights!” Steve’s voice rises out of my phone: “What was not good behavior at the Festival of Lights?”

12. The kids want to know what is a nativity. My version: “Jesus’s parents had to go pay their taxes in Bethlehem. Mary was pregnant with Jesus. Really pregnant. So Joseph put her on their donkey and they walked there. Then she realized she was going to have the baby right then, so they went to the inn. But the innkeeper said, no you can’t stay here, but you can stay in the… uh, barn. So she had the baby Jesus and they kept him in the manger. It’s a wooden thing you keep hay in. Then the angel got there, to bless him. And the wisemen heard about the new baby and showed up, and they brought him frankincense and myrrh. And… gold, I think. Yeah. Then he was this great guy.”

Wacky Girl: “Yeah, people really are all about him this time of year.”

Me: “Yeah. And if you ask me, that was a crummy way to treat a pregnant mommy, all ‘No, go sleep in the barn. Go have your baby in the barn.'”

Wacky Girl: “No, you would not like it if someone treated you like that, if you were having a baby.”

Me: “No, no I would not. So then these people said, ‘No, he’s not a great guy, he’s a bad guy.’ And they put him on the cross, they hammered nails through his hands and feet, and he dies. Then there’s the Pieta, that’s the pose you saw. He’s dead, and his mother, Mary, is holding him. Then they put him in a cave, put a rock in front of it, then later they rolled the rock away and voila! He was alive! He had arisen! He was resurrected and that’s Easter.”

Wacky Boy: “People can come back from being dead?”

Wacky Girl, flatly: “No.”

Me: “Jesus can. I mean, I wasn’t there. But they said he did.”

Wacky Girl: “I don’t think so.”

13. We get home. Steve is ready to take over. I am thrilled. Wacky Girl drinks the rest of my hot cocoa. Wacky Boy apologizes to me, stuffs the rest of his pretzel in his face, grins at me and waves. Peace on Earth.


  1. mcewen says

    I was hunting down the ‘Wacky Races’ but Wacky Mommy will do. Best wishes

    December 1st, 2006 | #

  2. edj says

    Merry Christmas! Uh, you do all realize it’s barely December, right? Are you sure it’s already the season?

    December 1st, 2006 | #

  3. she says

    Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier every year. I love #10 ;)

    December 10th, 2006 | #

  4. wacky cousin says

    I miss the Grotto. I’ve only ever been there with you. Maybe I’ll take 2.0 in the spring.

    December 29th, 2011 | #

  5. Nancy says

    I still love that place so much. My lil cousin will, too.

    December 29th, 2011 | #

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