Tuesday, December 24, 2013
My Secret Christmas "Miracle"
When I was seven years old I was Mary in the Christmas pageant at the Presbyterian Church my family attended. Mary was the only girl-part in the tableau and, in an effort to make sure we were not confused by the Catholics my mother repeatedly told me, "Playing Mary is no big deal. All she did was have a baby- any woman can do that! The Catholics make Mary a big deal, and that's a sin."
(Yes anti-Catholic sentiment and misogyny were alive and well in the 1960's in Ontario, Canada. Sigh. But I digress.)
The best thing about being Mary was the veil I got to wear bobby-pinned to my hair. It was a sky blue square of what I now realize was probably polyester and not silk (as I like to remember it.) Along the edges that framed my face, someone had glued a line of silver sparkles.
Now, in those days, the right lens of my glasses was blocked out with tape in an effort to get me to use and strengthen my "lazy" left eye. I hated it, mostly because it left me with very little sight. Mrs. Russell, my Sunday school teacher, decided that the eye patch did not fit the nativity scene we were creating, and told me to take my glasses off. I was happy to comply.
So, there I sat, a blue-eyed blonde Mary in my Sunday dress with my blue sparkly veil, holding one of my dolls wrapped in a sheet on my lap, surrounded by a group of boys all wearing bathrobes over their clothes. The shepherds wore t-towels on their heads held in place with their sisters' stretchy headbands applied horizontally across their foreheads. The bare-headed boy was my husband, Joseph. I don't even remember what he looked like.
Because I was holding baby Jesus, I sat under the single bright light that was dramatically flipped on once we were all in place. The minister read the biblical account of the story of the birth of Jesus. It was an evening service and, because of the bright light over me, I couldn't see the people in the pews in front of me. The sanctuary was a dark background to the light show suddenly spiralling out in my peripheral vision.
Perhaps because my vision was a little different- a bit blurry- without glasses, and certainly because the overhead light was refracting off the sparkles on the sides of my veil, I could see rainbows of colour framing my vision and shooting off into the darkness around me. If I moved my head slightly the lights moved and changed as if they were alive and spinning off my face.
It felt like magic- magic akin to but beyond the guy in the red suit who was going to put presents under the tree later that night. It felt as if something divine had touched our little tableau. The lights around my face seemed to be a visual representation of angels singing. It felt. . . . like being Mary might matter.
I was enthralled. . . so mesmerized that I did not hear the end of the reading and missed my cue to return to my seat, Finally, Mrs. Russell flipped off the light and changed her loudly whispered "Mary, Mary . . . " to call my name, rousing me from my revere. The congregation chuckled and I, usually the careful little rule-keeper, was surprisingly unembarrassed as I went back to sit with my family.
I felt like I had been privy to a small Christmas miracle. I wondered if my mother might have misunderstood Mary's- all women's- place in things. It felt like there just might be girl-roles worth having in the truly big picture.
I never told anyone about what happened, what I saw or felt, that night.
Merry Christmas everyone!