Both my parents are storytellers. I have become a storyteller too. Deep in my family history on both sides are bards, singers, and tale spinners, hard workers who like a good joke and a laugh but can also tell a story to chill your bones. Scotland and Ireland are lands both rich with wordplay and stories fit to warm the coldest night.
Having this inheritance, I like to use it where I can. Considering the time of year, here’s a story that I may yet tell to someone young and make it their inheritance.
When I was a lass, and still went to church, my favorite thing to do around Yuletide was the Christmas play. I loved the chance to don different clothes, wear a different face, play to an audience. I probably would have loved to be in theatre. Foreshadowing the time in high school when I would play Christopher Columbus, one year I got to play Joseph.
How exactly does one play Joseph? He has no lines. You might say it’s an entirely physical part. So I, the happy actress, having thought about all this, proudly stood behind Mary, held a staff and guarded my “wife” and doll-bodied child.” Privately, I thought I was the best Joseph there ever was, and didn’t think much of the whole gender issue.
The next year I had my dream role – an angel! I loved angels and drew them often. After all, they had wings and could fly, and that was just the ultimate in awesomeness to me. Now, this particular play had a main part, Gabriel, and an ultimately infinite number of bit parts, the Multitude of the Heavenly Host. It truly was a play designed to expand and contract to the needs of any size parish.
However, our parish was really rather small, and there weren’t that many kids for the taking. I ended up being the only one member of the Multitude. I was so proud of my costume with its white polyester robe and sparkly gold halo. I even figured out how to flap the tinsel edged wings. I was really looking forward to the play and practiced my line every chance I got.
Disaster struck! My budding acting career was nearly cut short as I was kicked in the very chin! To this day I can’t recall exactly how, but I think it happened at Sunday school the week before, and I had a big red mark. It was odious! Hideous! How could I go on stage in such a state? Really I’m sure it was barely visible, but I was embarrassed to go on stage. After all, who would believe an angel with a red chin?
My intrepid dad came to the rescue. He made up a song all about a red chinned angel, to the tune of “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.” He made me laugh and forget my troubles. So when the day came I donned my robe, went on stage, and said my line with pride and panache.
Now that I think of it, the Multitude were probably all male angels too.
Speaking of inherited tales, if you haven’t seen my family’s book of Holiday Tales called ‘Yuletide Lights,” you may want to give it a look. The book is fully illustrated and consists of sixteen stories that bear quite a passing resemblance to Christmases that really happened – or nearly did.