Monday, November 28, 2016

I Set Up the Creche Today

Granddaughter Alana at the creche in 2015


I was a bride of twenty in the mid-sixties
decorating my home creatively and economically
by attending ceramic classes Tuesday evenings
in Bette Carozza's basement
We sat round the table and coffee cups
cleaning greenware, applying
underglazes and overglazes
talking girl talk all the while
We made cookie dishes and ashtrays
glossy green Christmas trees with snowy branches
fitted with tiny colored lights
We made rooster lamps, pitchers and bowls
piggy banks and tall German beer steins
The most ambitious of us
made chess pieces and Nativity figures

I began working on my Nativity set in 1965
took a few months off after Mom died
and picked up the last pieces
hot from Bette's old electric kiln
on Christmas Eve Day, 1966
How well I recall carefully cleaning
the fragile greenware with a sharp tool
till the seams were perfectly smooth
sanding and sponging tiny bumps
and filling pit holes
Wanting to be as authentic as possible
I applied three coats of sky blue to Mary's robe
and ruddy brown to Joseph's
Jesus' features were less sharp
than the other figures
having been cast from a mold
that had been poured too many times
I unknowingly made the flesh tones far too pale
for Middle Easterners
The magi and their regal camels
were embellished with accents of pure gold
and I glued tiny rhinestones
onto their gift offerings
even though it's likely
the wisemen didn't visit the Christ Child
until months after He was born
The shepherds' garb were given earth tones
and a staff was provided for one of them
fashioned from a birch twig
I dabbed white froth onto the lambs' coats
and gave the cow big brown patches
making it a Guernsey
a breed not likely to have grazed
the fields of Bethlehem
The long-eared donkey was painted gray
Bette's husband, ChiChi
built a fine wooden crèche
with a place on top
to hang the golden haired angel
who flourished a banner proclaiming
"Gloria in Excelsis Deo"
I installed a music box
which played "Adeste Fidelis"
and a little light bulb
and bought a bag of sweet straw
from Woolworth's

For forty-nine Christmases
I've been unpacking the big cardboard box
unwrapping the fragile figures from newspaper
and displaying them throughout the season.
Some years, when the children were young
Jesus wasn't placed in the manger
until Christmas Eve
then we all sang, "Happy Birthday"

The angel now has a chipped wing
and the Guernsey's missing a horn
but Jesus still lies sweetly in His crib
apparently not minding whether or not
I managed to get every jot and tittle
of His manger scene historically correct
He just lies sweetly there
year after year
reminding us
that significant night
long, long ago
is a forever celebration

Maude Carolan Pych


I'm excited to announce that I'll be reading some of my Christmas poetry at two events in December. If you are available, I hope you'll attend.

The first is the Holiday Reading, Thursday, December 1st, 7 p.m., at Montclair Public Library Auditorium, 50 South Fullerton Avenue, Montclair, NJ. Other featured poets are Susan Lembo Balik, R. Bremner, D.M. Dutcher, Frank Niccoletti, Elizabeth Marchitti, Ken Ronkowitz and Bob Rosenbloom. An open reading will follow. This event is hosted by Laura Boss and Maria Mazziotti Gillan.

The second event will take place Saturday, December 17th, 7 p.m., at the ANT Bookstore & Cafe, 345 Clifton Avenue, Clifton, NJ. I will be joined by two poet/friends, Pastor EJ Emerson and Sister Jane Abeln, SMIC. Holiday music will be provided by Victoria Warne, Peter DiBella, Rikki Woods and Lidya Diaz. An open mic period will follow. Come, enjoy the festive atmosphere and Christmas cookies, too! James Gwyn and Victoria Warne host this monthly evening of poetry and music.

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