Growing up, my favorite memory of Christmas was our nativity set that sat inside the fireplace. Baby Jesus hid behind the manger until Christmas Eve when he was born! The angel Gabriel delicately hung inside the fireplace from the dampner. It was a treat to set up and then spend hours watching and admiring.
My mom graduated from this life in November of 2009, 55 years after the birth of this family treasure. She was the keeper of this beloved nativity from 1955 to 2007. She then passed it to my sister Megan for her family to enjoy. Megan kept it until 2011 when she passed it on to our other sister, Kate who held it until her passing in 2012. We then decided that this very special nativity needed to be shared among the remaining seven. So began The Brother and Sisterhood of the Family Manger Scene. My sister Mary enjoyed it last year and passed it on to me in the new year.
Today, I found it in the closet and suddenly was transported back in time. I cleared a spot on the buffet and began to gently unpack each piece. Emotion flooded as each player of the Great Story was revealed. Some are in great condition and others are chipped. The donkey is missing part of his ear. I remembered hiding Jesus. I pictured the straw that was spread around the family.
So, this year…59 years after it’s beginning, I am the honored holder of The Family Manger Scene. It has such a special place that I am not bringing out my own nativity this year. I will treasure each day that I get to look, remember and rejoice in what it represents.
Upon opening the first box, I found a card. Inside is the running record of the keeper of the manger. Accompanying the card was a hand written paper that my mom had written, penning the history of the nativity. It took my breath away to see my mom’s printing. She was famous for scrawling notes on anything that was loose and had room! She loved to chronicle life and for that I’m so grateful.
So, here is the story of The Family Manger Scene
In the Fall of 1955, my Grandma Katie purchased the manger at Kauffer’s Bookstore and the basic characters. This included the German made 3 piece set of Mary, Jospeh and the Baby for $8.50.
Grandma Katie tried for years to start a manger scene for the family and my mom said NO. There were little kids and they would want to handle and break the figures. Finally, in the fall of 1955 she started it and purchased the above mentioned set. Shortly after that, Grandma Katie passed away, not waking up on Thanksgiving morning.
After the funeral, a family friend who was unable to attend, sent a card and check to finish purchasing the manger scene figures. So along came the shepherds for $1.75 each. The Wise Men were a bit more spendy. The Incense carrier was $2.75. The kneeling wise man was $3.00. The standing man was only $1.50 because he was damaged. The 3 little lambs made in Italy and were $0.75 each. Only one of them made it this far in the journey.
Only my mom would keep track of the prices and remember them 50 years later. She noted at the bottom of the handwritten memoir that she wrote in 2005, 50 years to the day that Grandma Katie passed away.
I’ve been missing my mom more than usual lately. It comes with the time of year, as she passed away 5 years ago on November 11. To find her handwritten note was special, touching and sad all at the same time. I am so thankful for the little treasures that she left behind… even the scratched handwritten notes.