Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Surreal Christmas Story

Kim and I have been keeping you apprised of Skylar's interest in the "real" Christmas story. It concerns us, not because we have a problem with the story of Jesus, but because we have a problem with what Fundamentalists do with that story. But we don't want to direct Skylar's desire rightward by imposing restrictions on her beliefs. So we sing the religious songs -- not hard for us, really -- and answer her questions about the Mary and the "star of wonder" without complaining.

I've been home with Skylar this week. I work while she plays. She has alternated between her "felt guys" and our heterogeneous Christmas village, where the Burl Ives snowman mingles with the three wise men and an overturned shot glass adds intrigue to the landscape. Because I've been focused on my computer screen, I haven't been playing too much attention to the complicated scenarios she has been acting out with various characters. It has been clear to me, however, that Jesus has factored in most of the storylines.

Until a few minutes ago, I figured that Skylar must be engaged in an attempt to recuperate the religious dimension to the holiday, the aspect her parents downplay. And then I heard something out of the corner of my ear, as her running voice-over suddenly rose in volume: "He's going to steal it from the other Jesus." I did a double-take, tried to tune in to the story. Could she really have said that?

Yes. As it turns out, Skylar has been doing violence to the stock characters of the Christmas story in a manner than would do Tony Kushner proud. Mary, Joseph, the angel Gabriel and both Jesuses -- felt and ceramic -- are battling each other for control of a special ring. Gabriel has the most right to the ring -- actually the ring that the Tooth Fairy left Skylar last week -- because it belonged to her grandmother. But ceramic Jesus is the most clever of the bunch and keeps foiling Gabriel's efforts to secure the ring.

As I was writing that last paragraph, for example, Gabriel hid the ring inside the clam on top of the "clam stand" -- the shot glass -- but made the mistake of leaving the rope -- Skylar's new charm bracelet -- dangling too far down. Ceramic Jesus, who is kept inside the glass globe of the nativity scene, "because he keeps stealing," managed to use the sharp point of the star of wonder to break the walls off his transparent prison, then fashioned the shards left over from his breakout into steps that led down to the ground. From there he strode out onto the ice of the pond -- compact mirror -- and climbed the rope up to the clam and spirited the ring away to his own hiding place.

When Skylar noticed that I was watching her play, she addressed me. "Understand what this story's about? Stealing and secrets and hiding." I guess I should have had more faith in the fertility of her imagination. Now she's moving on to a new episode. In this one, Baby Jesus is hungrily gobbling up Panda Puffs for breakfast. But his appetite is apparently destined to get the better of him. "In this version he doesn't get killed. Instead he accidentally eats mistletoe and dies."

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