Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of Mary on that eventful night but this is her playing Mary again, in our kitchen, with some friends (Ian is Joseph with the beard) a couple of years later.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19) And I have too. I can play a sweet little movie in my heart about that Christmas in 1978 when we were a family of Mother, Father, two year old, four year old and seven year old. But I was harried at the time and it didn’t seem so sweet. We were going to the Ward Christmas party and I had spent the day making a Mary costume for my four year old daughter Maren. She and her seven year old brother Beau were going to play the Holy family, acting out their part of the nativity. It was an honor indeed. My little Mary was perfect with her dark hair and bright eyes. My handsome Joseph would stand beside her in the belted bathrobe and head scarf I had scrounged up that day. Getting us all ready and in the car on time for the dinner didn’t happen and we were late when we arrived at the church. The ham and funeral potato dinner was already underway, with not enough food left for the latecomers. They were even setting up more tables for the bulging group. We managed to scrape up some ham and rolls. The kids were more interested in finding friends than eating anyway and this isn’t my favorite meal, so all is well at this point. In the end there was plenty of frosted sugar cookies, what more could you want.
The call came for the Nativity and all the cute little shepherds straggled onto the stage for the performance. Mary clutched her favorite doll, wrapped in a soft flannel blanket that I had stitched together to match the blue scarf draped across her head. She and Joseph sat at the front of the stage as the story went on and on and on. Who wrote this script? Didn’t they realize that little children would be doing this? Four year old Mary got tired. I could see her eyes glaze over and before long she had let go of the baby Jesus and it rolled out of the little blanket and hung on her knees. I sat in motherly horror, wondering what I would do if the baby fell off her lap and on to the floor. I was finally able to breath when the story ended, in time to rescue the baby. But Mary’s best performance was yet to come.
The nativity children didn’t return to our table. I wasn’t worried. We were a new Ward with a huge group of children. The cultural hall was in barely controlled noisy confusion, with children bouncing here there and everywhere. I was tired and sat back to enjoy the next part of the program, a holiday variety show. There were some enjoyable musical numbers but their effect was lost in the hall buzz. Again I wondered if this wasn’t a little too much. Then a teenage girl walked to the stage and proceeded to play a classical piece on the piano. Ho Hum. But then it got very exciting. My lovely Mary with her blue head scarf clutched in her little fingers twirled on to the stage, swooping and pirouetting to the music. We gasped. What should we do? She was upstaging the piano solo. Perhaps we should have let her finish her adlib performance but embarrassment took over and Mike crouched through the crowd and onto the stage to remove the dancer. She came willingly, thank goodness.
We lived in that Ward for 29 years and never again did they have a family party (not that anyone remembered the craziness after all those years.) In the name of Peace on Earth the adults began a tradition of a nice progressive dinner every year after that and the children had their own party sans the entire family.
As Mary of old pondered her experiences I imagine her feelings changed in perspective as time moved on and so have mine. I would gladly go back and relive that evening with a new appreciation of what it means to be a harried mother with sweet little, free spirited children.