The nativity-as-dollhouse was a running gag in my house growing up. My mom always said she could give me two french fries and I’d be good for an hour, developing back stories and relationships between the potatoes, so unwrapping the nativity scene every year, with its animals and angel and little hay-nestled baby Jesus, was like getting a new dollhouse every December. For at least four years in my childhood, the shout, “JODY! WHERE DID YOU PUT JESUS?” was as much a sign of the season as the brick paper that lined our walls.
We don’t have a nativity now. It’s not because of religious reasons. I’m not particularly religious, but David and I grew up Catholic, which means that we both have a deep respect for and love of idolatry in all its forms. Rather, we’ve never invested in a nativity scene because we just don’t have room for it. Nativities require display space; we have a coffee table that triples as our dining room table, Eliza’s drawing board, and a general catchall.
When my mom offered to buy Eliza the Fisher Price Nativity Set, I said sure. David objected to it on principle (“Baby Jesus by Mattel?” were his exact words) but I figured it’s nice to have around: the kids can play with it, it can live on the floor or stashed in a corner, piled up, and they’re perfectly safe for gnawing. Plus, it’s the best kind of toy for a small place, in that, five weeks from now, it’ll get boxed up and sent to the storage space for the year.
Of course, it plays music and lights up when you press on the rooftop angel. But it does have an off switch. And this morning, when Eliza asked to play with her other favorite toy, I realized we had an opportunity for what is now my favorite visual gag, ever. If I adjust the lighting and set it up proper, it might be our Christmas card this year.