A few weeks ago Leo told me that he was going to be one of the three wise men. He was pleased that he would get to wear a purple robe and a crown and give a gift to Jesus. I’m just not sure he realized his role would be part of a public performance.
When I mentioned that his father and I would come to watch, he froze.
“I don’t want anyone to look at me,” he said.
“Baba and I will be the only people watching you,” I told him. “Do you think Madeline’s mother is coming to see you?”
He thought for a minute. “No,” he said. “She’ll be looking at Madeline.”
“And Seth’s father?”
“He’ll be looking at Seth.”
“See? We’re the only people who will be watching you,” I said.
“OK, he said, clearly resigned. “You and Baba can come, but you can’t look at me.”
Leo’s younger brother, Daniel, wanted us to be there, so we couldn’t just skip the program. Besides, we wanted to be there. These Christmas memories with our children are so precious.
So we went and sat discretely behind other parents. When Leo walked in and looked directly at us, I wished I had packed my sunglasses.
Daniel had told me he would be dressed as a lion, though he looked more like a bear to me. Our fur-clad son spent the whole program playing peek-a-boo with us from his seat, laughing, and not singing a word of the songs he and his brother had been performing around the house.
Leo, on the other hand, took his job more seriously than I imagine the wise men did themselves. From the corner of my eye, I saw him lead the way as he and two of his friends journeyed from afar. Our boy even found the courage to sing the last couple songs—which was so much more than I would ever have done at his age, and more than he did at his spring program in March.
The plot, which featured forest animals and a sleeping Santa Claus, was a bit difficult to follow—especially for a mother who wasn’t supposed to be watching. The central piece of the play, however, was the nativity story. And as I listened, I thought of how much Leo has enjoyed telling the story of Jesus’ birth this year.
One day last week, as Gabriel was telling the Blessed Mother she would be the mother of Jesus, I saw his Fisher-Price Mary jump up and down with joy to hear the angel’s news.
But even Mary’s emotions couldn’t match our son’s joy when the show was over at last, and he was sitting in a booth playing with a plastic toy that came with his fries.
“Can I have an ice cream cone?” he asked.
“Ice cream?” I said, feeling a bit lost. “They don’t sell ice cream here.”
“Yes, they do,” said my 5-year-old son. “I just saw a girl eating some.”
“Oh,” I said. “I had no idea.”
Of course, I thought, I’m the mother who doesn’t know which of the gifts her wise man son carried, even though I was in the second row. And I can’t tell you whether my younger son was a lion or a bear—or why a wild animal would be sharing the stage with the Blessed Mother.
But I was as relieved as Leo was that he had completed his role following yonder star. So we celebrated with something much more valuable than gold, frankincense, or myrrh: vanilla.