“It’s Christmas Eve,” Mom said. “Time for the nativity. Alice and Ben will be Mary and Joseph. Beth is an angel…”
“Yes she is,” Dad said.
“…and Robbie is a wise man…” Mom continued.
“Yes I am,” Robbie said.
“A real wise guy,” Alice said.
“…and Dad will be a shepherd. I’ll read the story,” Mom said.
“I’ll get my costume and set up the camera,” Dad said. He wandered off in the direction of the kitchen. Mom started bustling around, pulling things out of the box she’d brought into the living room.
Robbie was wearing a large embroidered tunic over his clothes and a cardboard crown. Mom handed him her empty jewelry box. “There you go. Very handsome. Now, sit still,” she said, and pointed at the couch.
Mom had sent Alice off to change into her blue dress. When she returned, Mom pinned a scarf to her hair with bobby pins and gave her a baby doll to hold. “All right. You look great. Now, sit over there,” Mom said. She pointed to a chair.
Ben had already changed into his Sunday clothes. Mom smiled. “Looks good, Ben. Find a seat.” Ben sat by Robbie on the couch and Mom changed Beth into her white dress.
“Honey, are you ready yet?” Mom said, looking towards the kitchen.
Dad returned wearing a bathrobe and munching on a cookie. “I can’t find my cane,” he said.
“It’s right here. I brought it in with the other costume things,” Mom said.
“Oh, all right,” Dad said. He started setting up the camera.
“Dad, did you bring us cookies, too?” Robbie asked.
“You’ll get your costume dirty,” Alice said.
“Would not,” Robbie said.
“Would so,” Alice said. She stuck out her tongue and Robbie leaned over the arm of the couch and snatched the baby doll.
“Mom!” Alice yelled. “Robbie stole baby Jesus.” She started to wail.
“Robbie, give it back,” Mom said.
“Fine,” Robbie said. He tossed the doll back. Alice stopped wailing and glared at him.
Mom flipped through the pages of her Bible, checking her bookmarks. “Almost ready?” She asked Dad.
“mmhmmm. Almost,” Dad said.
Beth was trying to grab the camera. “Could someone take her, please?” Dad asked.
“I will,” Ben said. He picked her up and carried her to the couch. “Beth, do you want to sing Jingle Bells?”
“No, teach her Silent Night,” Alice said.
“She likes Jingle Bells best,” Ben said.
“Bells,” Beth agreed.
“Dashing through the snow…” Ben began.
“Not again!” Robbie groaned. He leaned over the arm of the couch and snatched the doll again. “Here, let her play with this instead.”
“Hey!” Alice said.
“Baby!” Beth said, looking delighted. She cuddled the doll close and grinned.
“Fine,” Alice said. She smiled. Robbie looked surprised.
“I think I’ve got it,” Dad said a few minutes later. “Is everyone ready?”
“Yes,” they chorused. He pushed a button.
Mom began reading. “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed…”
And the nativity went well. Beth didn’t want to give up the doll, so Alice just carried her around too. Beth toddled over and sat on Dad’s lap and showed him the doll when it was time for her part, then Dad brought her back to Alice-as-Mary.
Robbie presented the chest with a flourish on his turn. It was over so quickly. Dad turned off the camera. “I think now it’s time for those cookies, Robbie,” he said. “What do you think?”
“I think let’s go!” Robbie said. And they did.