One of my most beloved birthday gifts is a nativity set given to me decades ago by my parents. I was born in December and a few days before my birthday, my mother and I were out shopping together. Lord & Taylor had a number of nativities on display, but there was one exquisite papier-mâché set that I really loved. Mary was so delicate and beautiful, her expression so loving and serene. How delighted I was when I unwrapped my final present that year ~ the beautiful papier-mâché holy family...
The following year I was equally thrilled to unwrap three kings crafted in the same delicate papier- mâché. These were the last three, my mother said. One of the kings is damaged, but we took it anyway. I looked. All three kings seemed perfect. Look again, my mother said. I looked again, but didn’t see anything wrong. My mother looked at my father and smiled. The kneeling king was missing a hand, she finally explained, and a gift too! We bought it anyway and your father fixed it.
My father was one of the most talented people I knew. A commercial artist by trade, I knew him best as a science-poster-advisor who patiently turned into a bulletin-board-advisor when I began teaching. My father died many years ago, but the gift of the third king, the kneeling king, is a perennial reminder of his unfailing creativity and enduring love.
Lord & Taylor eventually discontinued carrying nativity sets. For nearly a quarter of a century, I’ve searched everywhere for additional pieces of the delicate papier-mâché creche. Two summers ago, on a visit to Italy, my daughter and I even traveled to Via San Gregorio Armeno in Naples, the narrow street in the heart of the city known as Nativity Row. At Via San Gregorio Armeno hundreds of nativity sets ~ the sacred and the secular ~ the affordable and the extravagant, are squeezed into tiny stalls while merchants and artisans hawk their worth. My daughter and I checked every crowded corner, but my delicate nativity must be one of a kind.
No matter. Throughout the years, I've supplemented my starter set with some equally incomparable treasures.
|unwrapped & eagerly awaiting placement|
|waiting for Christmas|