74: Camel Herder

74: Camel Herder

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Christmas

Camel Herder

One camel does not make fun of another camel’s hump.

~Ghanaian Proverb

It was a month before Christmas and I was in my attic surrounded by boxes of holiday decorations. Luckily I had labeled each box with a marker. When I spotted the box labeled “Nativity Scene” my heart skipped a beat. My children and I have always looked forward to unwrapping the delicate figures of Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and the Three Wise Men, along with a stable full of animals. Carrying the box downstairs, I was greeted by applause from four excited children.

As soon as the box was opened, eight little hands started pulling out its contents. Then I heard my son Scott sobbing. “Look, Mom, my camel has no legs.”

He was right! The camel that had served us for years by standing watch over Baby Jesus was legless. “I’ll fix him; don’t cry,” I said.

In the meantime, we set up the nativity scene on the floor, to the right of the fireplace where the cradled baby would be kept warm.

I carefully glued Mr. Camel’s legs back on. It didn’t work. Scott cried when the legs fell off for the second time, and the third. “Don’t worry, I have an idea,” I said.

I called and e-mailed my friends about my camel dilemma. I had high hopes that a replacement camel would turn up. Someone just had to have an extra camel they could spare.

My husband, who is a true believer in Christmas miracles, said, “If you tell one person you are looking for a camel, you’ll probably end up with fifty.”

The next day a neighbor arrived at my door holding a tan camel in her hands. “I had two camels which fought all the time,” she said, laughing. “It’s time to separate them.”

Her camel was a bit larger than I hoped for, but how could I refuse this kind gesture? I placed the camel in back of the stable. Then I explained to my children that some camels are big and tall while others may be short and pudgy, like people.

I was given a chipped beige camel by another neighbor. He was the front-runner so far because of his perfect size, but he was pretty ragged looking, as though he had just walked across the desert following the Star of Bethlehem.

“He needs a bubble bath,” my daughter suggested. We wiped him down, but it didn’t make any difference.

A good friend e-mailed me saying she had a purple camel that would be the talk of the town — Bethlehem, of course. I couldn’t wait to pick it up. The camel had a purple shiny lacquer finish, and a gold and red etched seat with a matching harness. This was the one!

When I brought the statue home, there was no putting it down. It flew in and out of little hands, like a hot potato, and then around again. Yes, the purple camel would watch over Baby Jesus in our crèche.

In two weeks time I amassed thirteen camels. My nativity scene was surrounded by a caravan of camels that were standing, sitting, sleeping and arching their necks. My kids enjoyed playing with the different sizes, shapes and colors of the camels, marching them up and down the living room floor and around the Christmas tree.

Next year I plan to label another box of Christmas decorations that will say “Camel Caravan.” Who would have thought a purple camel could bring so much joy into our lives?

~Irene Maran

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