Four years ago around Christmas time, we went to IKEA to buy a couch – specifically, a couch that came disassembled so that we could fit it through the door of our new apartment. As Matt and I looked for something tolerable, Emerson collected all the little do-dads she could find into a huge IKEA bag, put the straps over her shoulder, and announced – fairly loudly – Alright! Got everything I need! I’m going to Bethlehem town! – turned around, and started walking away.
Ophelia is a little bit older than Emerson was that year, but the confluence of ideas is just as pronounced.
(But don’t ask her what her name is, because she can’t pronounce it. If you make the mistake and call her Ophelia, she’ll just look at you and ask, “what’s my name?”) Josephina (“Jophesina”) is part of the holy family, in case you didn’t know. Her mother is Mary, her father is “Jophess,” and her younger brother – of course – is baby Jesus. You know…the one in the nativity scene wearing the size-too-small cheerleading outfit and leg warmers? You can’t miss her….
We’ve had many a look thrown our way this holiday season. Emerson (in a panic) to Ophelia at the grocery store: “We have to go back! We left baby Jesus on the floor next to the apple cider!” Ophelia at school (also in a panic): “We left baby Jesus in the car! I can hear him crying!” (At which point she does her baby crying imitation)
But boy does she ever love that baby Jesus. Here she is reading him a book about Santa Claus…
But in every pageant there are try-outs, right? Half way through the holiday season, Ophelia decided that she wasn’t quite right as Jophesina, and moved on to a role that fits her better (and is much easier to say): Mary. Or more specifically, “Mary Nodded.” That’s her last name, if you didn’t know. (Mary nodded, pu rum pa pum pum….the ox and lamb kept time pa rum pa pum pum…I played my drum for him pa rum pa pum pum…)
Baby Jesus has gone through some casting changes as well…
(some other front runners were her cousin’s stuffed bear named Pecan, and various live cats)
before settling on the true baby Jesus in our midst.
We’ve gone through many set changes, many cast changes, many costume changes.
We’ve sung “The Little Drummer Boy” a hundred times, we’ve been reminded “my name is Mary Nodded” a hundred more. We’ve seen Mary in a veil, riding a donkey, with the baby on the outside, with a baby on the inside, with Jophess, with the wise men, and – of course -with all the animals. We’ve overheard things like, “I just put baby Jesus in his manger…it’s his nappy time…” and “LOOK! Santa brought baby Jesus a new dress!” and “Mommy! There’s Jophess! I saw his husband!..and his beard!” And through it all, I know that although Ophelia might be a little fuzzy on the details, she gets the big picture…maybe better than most of us.
Just before Chirstmas, I overheard the girls arguing in the next room.
Emerson: “You don’t even know who Saint Nick is!”
Ophelia: “Yes I do! It’s Poppy!”
My dad? Patron Saint of children? Jolly man with a sack full of toys at the ready? Sounds about right.