Slow-Cooked Sentences

Someone needs to tell Muhammad

Rachael Conlin Levy

… a mountain can be moved.

Chaja balances Max on the mountain’s peak.

The phone rang with a message that school was canceled, a text arrived that work was canceled, and email announced the evening’s commitments to Cub Scouts and 4-H were canceled. And so the house awakened under a blanket of snow.

How did we spend this serendipitous day? Putting on hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, boots, jackets and snow pants, then pulling off frozen, wet ones.

Kids played, I shoveled snow, my husband discovered we had the wrong size snow chains, but ran his errands anyway, and the dryer ran all day long.

Kids fought, I shoveled snow on top of kids to shock them into shutting up, my husband made lunch, and the dryer ran all day long.

Kids watched Looney Tunes, I turned the house into a sauna by boiling a bubbling brew of plum jelly, my husband shoveled snow, and the dryer ran all day long.

Kids ate jelly on crackers, I drank ‘nog while knitting and nursing the littlest grub, my husband read part of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” and the dryer ran all day long.

The house slept under a blanket of snow, and the dryer ran all night long.

Courtesy of An Optional Holiday.

December is heavy with tradition, much of it passed down by family or steeped in religion. I enjoy the annual outing to cut the tree, the hanging of the Advent calendar, the nights gambling for nuts or M&Ms; with the dreidel, but I cherish the traditions that are uniquely our own. These traditions, I think, are serendipitous creations — like snow days. We do something one time, the kids latch onto it, and the next time around we hear the words … but we’ve always done it this way. The annual part of reading the “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” was like that.

The family gathers in the living room on most December evenings to listen to my husband read Barbara Robinson’s story’s about a bunch of bad kids who lied, stole, smoked cigars (even the girls), talked dirty, hit little kids, cussed their teacher and took the name of the Lord in vain, but decided to crash a church’s Christmas play.

Illustration by Judith Gwyn Brown from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

“I’ve got the baby here,” Imogene barked at the Wise Men. Don’t touch him! I named him Jesus.”

“No, no, no.” Mother came flying up the aisle. “Now Imogene, you know you’re not supposed to say anything. Nobody says anything in our pageant, except the Angel of the Lord and the choir singing carols. Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men make a lovely picture for us to look at while we think about Christmas and what it means.”

“I think I ought to tell them what his name is,” Imogene said.

“No. Besides, you remember it wasn’t Mary who named the baby.”

“I told you!” Ralph whacked Imogene on the back. “I named him.”
“Joseph didn’t name the baby either, ” Mother said. “God sent an angel to tell Mary what his name should be.”

Imogene sniffed. “I would have named him Bill.”

It’s all that good. I promise. If my husband’s not careful to hide the book after reading it, one of our kids will secret it away and read ahead.

I’m curious. Do you have a tradition that’s unique to your family?

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One response to “Someone needs to tell Muhammad”

  1. chelsey says:

    I love that book. I still read it every year, even though I don't have a class to read it to anymore.

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