Yesterday we set up our creche, an activity that always created riots amongst my siblings and I when we were kids. “I get baby Jesus!” “You got Him last year! It’s MY turn!” “It’s not fair, Colette always gets to set up baby Jesus! Why does Colette get to do everything?” For the record I don’t think I ever got to set up baby Jesus until all my siblings had moved out of the house. At that point it lost a bit of its luster and I pretended to prefer the donkey. Actually at that point I probably really did prefer the donkey. Anyway, all this is neither here nor there as currently Pia has no siblings and therefore gets to blissfully set up all the animals and baby Jesus. She has no idea how good she has it.
We have the most brilliant, wonderful nativity set which was a gift from a dear friend. The set was made in Thailand and includes a flock of chickens, two water buffalo, and an elephant on his knees. The most charming detail is that Mary is holding baby Jesus, something I have never seen in any other set. So very cool. While setting it up I told Pia the Christmas story, having her fetch Mary or Joseph or the chickens as they came up in the story. It was quite fun figuring out how to weave the water buffalos and elephant into the narrative.
Christmas is the easy story to tell. All the animals and the star and the no-room-in-the-inn. It’s all good. So why on earth did I find myself having this conversation today while building snowmen?
Pia: Did baby Jesus die?
Me: Um, yes. But he wasn’t a baby, he was a grown up. Everyone dies. (unhelpfully, I began singing Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” at this point. i’m a bear of a mother.)
Pia: How did he die?
Me: Um, well, he was killed.
Me: (where is this coming from???) well, he was a good man who taught other people about being good, but some people didn’t like what he was teaching.
Pia: Did he come back to life?
Me: Oddly, yes…
You can see the course this conversation was taking. Where all this came from I have no idea. Why the story of Jesus’ birth led her to ask all sorts of questions about his death is baffling to me. But having this talk with a 5-year-old who asks ‘why’ about everything was very challenging. “Why did he come back to life?”, “Will I come back to life?”, “Why did some people not like him?”. Ack. Perhaps I will be better prepared by Easter. At that point I will just hand her the phone and tell her to call her godmother. Get ready Aunt B.