In many towns across this country, the churches reenact the birth of Jesus with the help of the youth of their congregations. The proud parents do their best to clothe their children for the parts they were selected to play. The shepherds wear their bath robes with their heads covered in the finest dish towels, and carrying a stuffed lamb in one hand, and a staff in the other. The wise men adorned with more regal head pieces, and bringing the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and so the scene plays out for many.
But, in the small town of Deland, Florida the nativity really comes to life. With the loan of the live animals from the Cole Bros Circus, that winters on the outskirts of town, the production has a grandness. The reenactment at St. Peter’s Church is the delight of the town.
As the choir sings “Silent Night” along with the congregation, first to enliven the pageant is the donkey that carries Mary, lead by her devoted husband Joseph. They slowly make their way down the center aisle toward the humble manger with all eyes and cameras on the scene. In those moments the mood is set for the birth of their first son, Jesus ~ and the Christmas spirit streams through the hearts of all.
In the year, 2010, our family all gathered together for this children’s service. Our mother’s health was failing, and we wanted her to enjoy the festive presentation one more time. She and I were both in wheelchairs, and were seated up front ~ just left of the manger scene with our family behind us in the church pews. Although frail my mother was excited to have everyone together, and to see the Christmas pageant once again. She was dressed in her finest, which always included the warmth of her smile.
On this night the animals would add to our vast collection of family tales. Shortly after Mary and Joseph settled in the manger, the side door a few feet from mom and I opened. Our family, distracted by the heavy door, started to giggle as a shepherd tugged and pulled trying to move the first of his flock into the church. His earnest attempt failed until one of the teachers assisted ~ by pushing mightily on the stubborn lamb’s behind.
My mother’s eyes lit up as a small herd of sheep with their shepherds paraded passed us, headed to the manger they sung out ~ baa ~ baa ~ baa! So sweet a scene as each shepherd wore their garb with pride. As they approached the manger, the angels danced in front of the Holy Family in honor of the birth of Jesus, ~ while the choir sang “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” With all the activity some of the sheep wanted to wander, but, the shepherds held them tightly ~ and the scene had us all smiling warmly.
The children did such a wonderful job, and I was so pleased to see the twinkle in my mother’s eyes. Then, the big moment arrived. The three wise men dressed royally made their way followed by two stately camels. A sigh of awe filled the church from all attending, as these huge animals towered over everyone on their way to the manger scene. It was a sight to behold as these long necked camels walked towards the front of the church reaching their heads over the crowd ~ eyeing the hats that accessorized some ladies. Trying to be discreet were the men assigned to scoop any camel deposits in the aisle.
We all watched the pageant with moments of reverence, laughter, joy and awe. But, it did not take long to see that my mother was obsessed with the camels ~ her eyes followed their every move. One can only imagine her surprise, when the two stately animals ended up two feet in front of our chairs ~ backed in ~tails swinging. Her eyes grew wide and focused on the pendulum swing. At this point, as the angels danced around the manger, and the three wise men presented their gifts, she sat totally engrossed by these enormous creatures ~ and a bit afraid of their massive figures.
Her body language spoke volumes as she wiggled uneasily in her chair, without breaking her gaze on them. But, as one of the tails stopped its left to right motion, and started raising this appendage, mom’s eyes rose and her mouth opened in shock. About five feet above her head, she caught sight of the anal muscle puckering up. My mother never missed a trick, and she knew the camel was not preparing to whistle. Being we were in church ~ I imagine “holy shit” may have been on her mind. She poked my elbow, and pointed to the anal muscle as it signaled “out coming!”
Panic took hold of my precious mother as she imagined being showered in camel dung. Our wheels were pressed against the pews behind us, and with the camels being so close ~ we were trapped. Never witnessing a release of relief by such a creature, my mind figured the trajectory put us at ground zero.
As though it were timed, my mother raised her arms and scream – ah – AH – AAH! In the same moment the choir was singing Hallelujah. In seconds, golf ball size camel terds were raining down like a slot machine mega payoff. They shot out fast, hard, round and plentiful, and bounced off our chairs and feet, while rolling in every direction. My mother’s panic reached an Armageddon state, so my brother came and held her tightly, as she watched the other camel intently ~ and kept up her shouts of fear. Those in the back of the church, who could not see the pouring forth of camel dew, thought my mother was having a charismatic moment ~ touched totally by the spirit.
All those in range were in hysterics, although it was not the least bit funny to my mother ~ until we reached home. All I can say, one had to be there. Mom could not speak do to a stroke, but if she could I think it would of been something like this…
“Holy shit! Do you see what I see?”
Merry Christmas everyone! May you all be showered by God’s graces, and be surrounded by loved ones filled with the love and joy of the season.
We miss you mom! 12-23-1921 – 12-23-2011