On the very day the calendar turned from November to December, the boys and I dragged our Christmas boxes up from the basement. As always, they set up the nativity scene first, spread out on a green velvet cloth that covers my mahogany-wood-from-the-jungle table in the corner of our downstairs hall. (That table has a nice story, but it’s not a Christmas story, so I’ll save it for another day.)
And as always, the nativity scene looks almost the same as it did the year before. After all, there’s pretty much only one face that a plaster Joseph can make. (I can almost hear him responding to Mary’s “Why are you making that face?” with what has always been both my dad’s and my husband’s pat answer… “I’ve gotta look somehow.”)
Of course, there’s always a slight change in the menagerie from year to year because of the need to replace a smashed rooster or the sheep whose head was sheared off in a mishap with the lid of the Christmas box. We add at least four new visitors to the stable on Christmas morning when each family member finds a new donkey (or llama or guinea pig) in his stocking.
We’ve had a few years when live cats have joined the manger scene, but all in all, things remain pretty much the same.
Except for the Year of the Dinosaurs.
Danny was just five, the age when most kids have fully succumbed to dinomania. While I was unpacking the animals from the Christmas box that year, Danny ran up to his room and collected all of his plastic dinosaurs to add to our nativity scene. I squelched my instinct to say, “No, they don’t fit,” and let him nestle the dinos around the manger. After all, God had created these amazing creatures (the real ones, not the made-in-China plastic models!) and I’m sure that Baby Jesus wouldn’t have been a bit scared to see them gather around his manger bed. And they actually did look pretty good there among the plaster sheep and donkeys.
Eight years have passed since the Year of the Dinosaurs, and while the boys still love the tradition of setting up the nativity scene, they’ve lost a little bit of that childhood wonder. One is now a pre-teen and the other a brand new teenager; they wouldn’t be caught dead putting children’s toys into the manger scene. And while I love the “grownups” that my boys are becoming, I miss the dinosaurs!
In a recent bedroom cleanup, the boys set aside the plastic dinosaurs to give to another little five year old named Daniel. I hope the dinos make their appearance in his family’s nativity scene. And I hope that Daniel’s mom savors every moment of their Year of the Dinosaurs.