The Debut

The Debut

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

The Debut

“Mom, where’s the roll of butcher paper?” JoAnn asked as she rummaged in the kitchen drawer for scissors and tape. Off she trotted down the hall, clasping the items.

Gathered for our family Christmas party, all three generations had finished eating. Now, the little cousins eagerly left parents and grandparents behind to begin preparations for the annual nativity pageant. Sequestered in the far recesses of the house, the youngsters plotted behind closed doors.

Grateful for peace and quiet, we adults basked in the festive glow of the fire, nibbled remnants of our delicious dinner and continued chatting. We felt no need to hurry our budding geniuses, tickled that they found delight in planning this project together.

An occasional burst of dialogue erupted through the open door as first one then another child was dispatched on a crucial errand. A jar of craft paint, then a wide paintbrush disappeared into their inner sanctum. Intense forays commenced throughout the house as armloads of towels, bathrobes, scarves, bed sheets, belts and jewelry joined their stash. Giggles and whispers intensified as their conspiracy continued.

We knew the project must be coming together when they mounted an intense search for bobby pins, large safety pins, paper clips, even clothespins—anything to hold costumes and props in place. Everyone’s anticipation heightened as the cast and crew finished their preparations.

When the designated spokesperson called for our attention, a hush fell over the room.

Two stagehands wrestled a long, butcher-paper poster and, with copious lengths of tape, secured it to the wall. Emblazoned in bright paint it read:

Bethlehem Memorial Hospital

The makeshift stage became a busy reception area of the hospital. One bossy cousin greeted newcomers, summoned aides and kept employees scurrying. Instead of halos, “nurse-angels” wore folded-paper caps with red painted crosses. They assessed each case, wielding their make-believe stethoscopes and thermometers before sending patients off to imaginary treatments.

Mary, endowed with a plump throw pillow, entered, leaning on Joseph’s sturdy arm for support. Rejected by the insensitive innkeeper, they found a warm welcome at Bethlehem Memorial where one escort whisked Mary off to delivery and another led Joseph to the waiting room.

Joseph paced; he wrung his hands; he nodded off while shuffling through old magazines. He begged for the latest news on Mary’s condition. At proper intervals, a nurse appeared with an encouraging, “It won’t be long now.”

After our young thespians had milked the scene dry, unseen hands shoved the last performer onto the stage.

There stood Connie Beth, the youngest nurse-angel in the troupe. Her scrap of angel robe in disarray, her nurse cap askew, she inched toward Joseph. Having outgrown her role as babe-in-the-manger, this year—oh, joy—she had a speaking part.

Suddenly aware of her audience, Connie Beth froze. She ducked her head, lowered her eyes and studied the floor. Her tongue probed the inside of her cheek and lower lip. A tiny finger crept toward her mouth. The toe of her little tennis shoe bore into the carpet fibers.

Would stage fright be her undoing?

Offstage, a loud whisper shattered the silence. “Tell Joseph about the baby!”

Connie’s head lifted. Her countenance brightened. Resolve replaced fear.

She hesitated, searching for the right words. Taking a deep breath, she stood before Joseph and quietly delivered her joyous message:

“It’s a girl!”

Mary Kerr Danielson

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