In our house, Christmas was always home made. It might have been partly out of necessity, but it never felt that way. In addition to having a sweet tooth, and being a sewing whiz my mother was very artsty craftsy. Not only did she make all of my clothes, but she made EVERYTHING for our house. She loved magazines and used many of the ideas she saw in their pages to adapt for our home. She never seemed comfortable being ordinary or mundane. As an example, our living room had one wall with a painted plywood false wall about 5"-12" in front with floor to window top arched cut outs in front of the windows and sheer drapes hanging in the arches. I am sure this idea came from a magazine. She was a big city girl living in a small town. Her second husband, Merle and the best
Across the street from our house lived Mamie Schleeter, the mother of Merle's best friend since childhood. She was like a second mother to him, and her hobby was ceramics. Mamie was exceptionally talented and sold a fair number of her ceramic pieces. So one year Mom and Merle ordered a complete nativity set with gold trim. Merle was very handy (a much more important trait for a husband than wealthy) and I am sure envisioned making a nice standard wood creche for the figures. He should have known better.
One day during the late Fall, Gloria and Merle were going for a "drive". Going for a drive was a ritual in our family, and one that I didn't always appreciate when I was young. As an adult, my husband and I often go driving around country roads after dinner, and now I love it. As children we used to claim that Merle knew every gravel road in our county, and we drove along them feeling like the car was on a perpetual rumble strip. Mother was always on the lookout for natural items that she could use in one of her hundreds of craft projects. Driving along mother would just yell stop if she saw something she wanted and then direct Merle to retrieve what she wanted if it was in a particularly difficult spot. Mom supervised. She (meaning Merle) always gathered items such as bittersweet, cattails, rosehips and rocks for her arrangements and projects. However, the creche needed a very special setting. When they arrived home that day, the trunk lid was open indicating it held something so large that it couldn't close. Mother had discovered a stump with roots on the side of the road, and amazingly, she was able to talk Merle into wrestling it into the trunk. What a perfect natural setting for their new nativity set!
And so it was. She cleaned that stump and covered the top of the television with a layer of the roll out cotton snow, arranged the figures in the spaces formed by the roots, and sprayed aerosol snow over the top. She then fixed an over-sized angel and star at the top surrounded with evergreen boughs which hid the fact that the angel was out of scale. Televisions in those days were big, boxy freestanding pieces of furniture that were the main focus of the room, so it was a perfect location. It could hold the weight of the stump.
This was our nativity setting for many years. So many, in fact, that my younger brother thought it was a piece of driftwood, because the bark had worn off. Really??? We lived in central Indiana and never went on vacation. Where would we get driftwood that large? The years have passed, and my brother is now the official keeper of the nativity set, but he has the figures in the more traditional setting imagined by Merle originally.
Personal note: This post was completely written and ready to post when an amazing, some might say providential, event occurred. I was re-reading the text and adding the photos, when, as I was searching for photos and cropping the new ones sent by my brother, I noticed a curious looking thumbnail. Could it really be?? I quickly closed the select window so I could open the thumbnail in question to see it more closely. It was, it really was . . . It was an old fuzzy photo of the original stump on our television! I