From my grandparents' flowery explanation and frequent use of the word "miracle," I went in expecting to be blown away by the production. Unfortunately, the church moms and the pathetic excuses for actors that they called their offspring failed to bring the characters to life in the way I had hoped. And the story just seemed to center around everyone being really impressed with Jesus and there wasn't much suspense and not a single battle scene.
I could see that the story had potential, but I was deeply disappointed by the whole experience.
By the time my grandparents dropped me off at home, I had convinced myself that I needed to take matters into my own hands and reinvent the birth of Christ so that it conformed to my expectations. My parents and I lived with my maternal grandmother and my aunt, so I would have more than enough talent to work with - all I had to do was create a compelling story line.
I walked through my front door with purpose and gathered my family members in the living room to tell them about my vision. I was going to rewrite the birth of Jesus Christ and I was going to make it POP.
My mom, always wanting to nurture my creative side, agreed on behalf of everyone that we should go forward with the production. I would be playing the part of Mary and my dad would be Joseph. My aunt and my grandma would play the wise men. My mom would be filming. The dogs were slated to play the animals in the manger, but they kept trying to chew the eyes off of the doll I'd chosen to play Jesus, so their parts were cut and they were relegated to the bedroom for the duration of the production.
Once I had assigned everyone their parts, we set about the task of gathering costumes and props. Joseph was outfitted in a brown bath robe and Mary wore a blue blanket over her head like a cloak. The wise men, who were heavily intoxicated at that point in the evening, decided to dress themselves like gypsies.
I felt that the struggles of my character, Mary, needed to be emphasized. The audience really needed to understand that she was suffering. I constructed my costume accordingly.
By the time I was done reinventing her, Mary carried a cane, walked with an exaggerated limp and was completely covered in BandAids.
She was also blind.
The first scene opened with Mary and Joseph walking across the desert in search of shelter. I took my dad's hand and slowly paraded around the house, making a big show of being horribly disabled.
I was slightly annoyed when my dad broke character to ask my mom if she put the leftovers in the refrigerator, but I tried to work around the interruption and carry on. I couldn't let myself be distracted by the incompetence of others.
I had never been more serious about anything in my little life. I ad-libbed my lines with the greatest sincerity, pausing after each one to let the weight of my plight sink in.
Every now and then, I would pause my dramatic musings and make my dad knock on a door and ask "Is there room at the inn?" At which point, my mother's disembodied voice would say "I'm sorry. There is no room at the inn." And then I'd make my dad feign complete outrage at the detached voice.
Me: "Now yell at the innkeeper!"
My Dad: "Arrggghhhh!"
Me: "No, Dad! Actually yell words at him!"
My Dad: "You... innkeeper! You dirty innkeeper!"
Me: "Do it better than that."
My Dad: "Oh, I'll... I'll show you, you rascally innkeeper!"
Me: "NO! You aren't saying it mean enough."
My Dad: "How do I say it mean enough?"
Me: "Say 'I'll rip out your guts and feed them to a monster and then I'll kill you!'"
My Dad: "I'll rip out your guts and feed them to a monster and then I'll kill you."
My Dad: "I'LL RIP OUT YOUR GUTS AND FEED THEM TO A MONSTER AND THEN I'LL KILL YOU!!!"
Working with my family was turning out to be more of a struggle than I had anticipated. They seemed to be actually looking for opportunities to derail my theatrical masterpiece.
Once we had cycled through knocking on every door in the house in much the same fashion, I went back to the first door and started the process over. At some point in this endless litany of repetitive scenes, my mom interrupted to try to get things moving a little faster.
My mother didn't seem to understand how serious I was about my part. Fortunately, I got bored with the scene well before I'd gotten around to reenacting it a million times.
It was finally time for Jesus to be born. Due to my incomplete understanding of childbirth, the scene involved Jesus being tossed across the room, as if in flight, and me running over to where he landed and acting really surprised to find him there.
The wise men were in the kitchen making more cocktails while Jesus was being "born" and they missed their cue. My mom ran into the kitchen and yelled "Jesus is here!" to which the wise men responded "Oh! Right! Shit. Hang in there, Jesus! We're coming!! "
They stumbled into the living room, still clutching half-full glasses of vodka which they hadn't had time to pour orange juice into, and yelled, as if the baby Jesus were partially deaf or mentally challenged "HELLO JESUS. WE COME BEARING GIFTS."
Grandma: "Wait, where are the gifts?"
Aunt: "Didn't you bring them? We were supposed to bring gold, frankincense and that other one."
Grandma: "I thought you were going to bring them."
Aunt: "I was busy keeping my eye on that star and trying not to get us lost. You were on gold, frankincense and whatever duty."
Grandma: "Well, I was brushing the camels."
Aunt: "You aren't supposed to brush camels."
Grandma: "You don't know that. Have you ever owned a camel?"
Aunt: "Of course. I'm a wise man. I know all there is to know about camels."
Grandma: "Well, then you should know that camels need to be brushed. A lot."
Aunt: (skeptical silence).
Grandma: "Well, I guess we don't have any gifts after all. Sorry Jesus."
I was not happy. I ordered them to go find some gifts for Jesus.
They scavenged around the living room for a few minutes and then returned bearing a pack of cigarettes, the remote control and a Kenny Loggins tape.
Aunt: "We're back! And we have the gifts!"
Grandma: "They are specially imported from distant lands."
The gifts were most definitely not imported from distant lands. I had just seen my aunt and grandmother pick them up off of the floor, seemingly at random. Their inattention to detail infuriated me. They weren't even trying to make the play seem realistic. They were sabotaging my monumental production with their lazy, unrealistic props.
Me: "Jesus doesn't want those things."
Grandma: "Sure he does. Jesus loves Kenny Loggins."
Me: "No. He hates him."
My dire seriousness only served to fuel their desire to toy with me.
Aunt: "No, no, no. Jesus was a huge Kenny Loggins fan."
Grandma: "It's true. I saw it in the Bible once."
Me: "Grandma, Kenny Loggins wasn't even alive back then."
Grandma: "Oh yes he was. Kenny Loggins is immortal."
They both burst into raucous laughter. They thought they were being awfully clever. Apparently my mom and dad thought so too, because they joined in.
At that point, they were all laughing too hard to clearly impart any further knowledge of Kenny Loggins.
I looked at them, strewn about the room; contorted with laughter over their own stupid jokes.
They were a disgrace. They had somehow managed to take my moment in the spotlight and irreversibly derail it until it was entirely about Kenny Loggins. This was supposed to be MY moment, not Kenny Loggins' moment. It was so unfair. They were ruining my life.
I couldn't contain my fury any longer.
An unforeseen plot twist arose when, in a final attempt to jar my family into cooperation, I cast the baby Jesus to the ground and began to repeatedly bludgeon him with my cane.
Even though they weren't religious, the violent blasphemy unfolding before them made my family feel slightly uncomfortable.
For a moment, it seemed as though my outburst had succeeded in bringing my family back into a more serious mindset. But after a few moments of tense silence, my aunt quietly squeaked "Kenny Loggins wouldn't beat the baby Jesus..."
It was over. Any hope I had ever had of getting my family members to act out their parts with integrity was shattered. They laughed and laughed until I thought they were going to asphyxiate on their own wretched spittle.
My mom eventually realized that it was her maternal duty to step in and discipline me when I did things like strike the baby Jesus repeatedly with a blunt object, so she tried to pull herself together and send me to my room.
I didn't want to spend any more time around these horrible, undignified people anyway, so I stomped away to my room where I could reenact the play with a more cooperative cast.