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  • Kristan Higgins

Away in the Manger

When I was a young single person, I happened upon this manger. This was back in the days when I couldn’t afford to buy a coffee, but there was something about this humble little manger, hand-carved in Mexico, that made me buy it. It was the first Christmas item I ever bought for myself.

In my little apartment over the pizza place in New Haven, I set it up on my coffee table. As a newlywed, it went on the windowsill, and our cat, Joe, would knock it over daily. In our tiny attic apartment in Connecticut, we set it up on the bookshelf, and when we built our house, it went back on the windowsill. Tiny, cute and, as the kids soon found out, moveable. “Can we play with the manger?” they’d ask.

“Of course,” said I, telling them the Christmas story with great gusto and many creative details (it was snowing, the innkeeper made the stable quite cozy, a goose slept next to Jesus to keep him warm). The Princess was especially fond of the hardworking donkey; Dearest Son loved the Wise Men. Each week, the kids would move the shepherds and Magi closer and closer to Jesus, and on Christmas Eve, they’d be huddle around him. One year, Baby Jesus disappeared. We suspected he was eaten by our cat, Cinnamon. (Sorry, Baby Jesus.) With the kids' Play-Doh, I made a replacement Jesus. Note how happy he is.

Dearest Son started getting creative with the manger as a youth. Imperial stormtroopers, dinosaurs, aliens, Darryl from The Walking Dead, various vehicles to facilitate the Wise Men’s journey. I was always delighted to come upon the manger and see his work, and he was always pleased to sneak something in there. I myself added a golden retriever, because every kid should have a dog.

This year, the Peeper has discovered the manger. “Sheep!” he exclaimed. “Baa!” The donkey, cow and camel were all deemed horses and roared. They are very fierce horses, apparently. It gives this grandmother great joy to see another generation playing with that $20 nativity I splurged on so long ago.


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