Saturday, December 2, 2023

"The Creche"

 A-Poem-a-Day Until Christmas

Maude's hand-painted ceramic creche-1966



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 around 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

(Did Mary actually own a blue 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 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 more than five decades now

a few weeks before Christmas

I've been unpacking the big cardboard box

unwrapping the fragile figures from newspaper

and displaying them throughout the season.

When the children were young

Jesus wasn't placed in the manger

until Christmas Eve

when we all gathered round

and 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

"Wonderhoods" is Maude's autobiography in poetry.
"Behold the Lamb...poetically!"
is the Birth, Death & Resurrection of Jesus in poetry.
Both books are by Maude Carolan Pych.
The latter is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

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