We found Jesus...and Mary and the Wise Men too. But most importantly, we found Black-Eyed Joseph, much to the delight of everyone in the family. Let me explain.
When Wayne was a boy, he made this nativity scene in art along with all the other fourth graders in his class. At least he thinks it was probably fourth grade because his teacher that year was Clarabelle Buzzard who really liked art and constantly had her students doing art projects. And yes, Clarabelle Buzzard was her real name, not some nickname the kids pinned on her. She was memorable for both her name and her love of time for art.
The students mixed plaster of paris, poured it into molds and then painted the pieces once they had hardened. It's fun to turn the figures over and see Wayne's initials etched some of them or his name written on the bottom of others. We think the stable came some time later but it's been a part of the set for years.
There's quite a bit of detail for a fourth grader to paint, especially a fourth-grade boy who really wasn't into art, but he did a good job. His brush strokes gave the plaster figurines some depth and personality, just what every artist wants.
I'm not sure what happened with Joseph, however. Perhaps all the strain of being turned away at the inns got to him as instead of little black pupils he has large black eyes. Both of them. As a result, he was forever known in Arnall lore as Black-Eyed Joseph.
None of this mattered to Wayne's mom. She proudly displayed Black-Eyed Joseph and the rest of the figures every Christmas along with her other treasured Christmas decorations. Moms do that sort of thing, you know; overlook imperfections and find beauty in the creations of their children. She gave the boys most of the things related to their youth, once they were grown and had families of their own, but she never parted with Black-eyed Joseph.
Wayne has specific memories of this nativity scene in the house in which he grew up, and I remember it in the house on Frazier and the apartment, both places his parents lived after we married. And at each holiday there were loving chuckles at the story of Wayne painting Joseph with two black eyes. Stories like that take on a life of their own...and that's a good thing as far as families go.
I wasn't really thinking about all that when we started through boxes of Christmas stuff in Wayne's Dad's apartment several weeks ago but it wasn't long before one of his brothers hollered I found Black-Eyed Joseph! There were a lot of smiles and good memories shared that day before these tiny works of art were tucked away in a box headed for Florida.
Some of those same smiles and memories resurfaced again today as I quizzed Wayne for more details about the set as I packed it in with our own family's Christmas decorations today. He'll be quick to tell you he isn't an artist but that doesn't matter. I fully expect Black-Eyed Joseph and the rest of this nativity set to have a permanent place in our house this Christmas and every one thereafter. Brad and Kayla are going to love it's charming imperfections as much as Wayne's mom did. It is, after all, a family tradition and one I'm happy to carry on.