There's a story behind this nativity set: it tells me what my mother was like, at her best. The camels, and the Holy Family, were gifts to Mother on two different Christmases, given by one of her Avon customers. A lady who made ceramics as a hobby wrapped them and presented them to her. The rest of the cast portrayed here, I was fortunate to find at a Wal Mart; they were cheap, and made to the same scale as my Holy Family. But back to my mother.
She started selling Avon in 1963, I believe. She was more than a saleslady: she became bosom buddies with most of the housewives in her "territory". If she happened in at lunchtime, she was invited to share a meal. She often heard their most private thoughts and confessions. If someone needed a friend, Mother was there.
That's what my nativity set reminds me: that my mom was there for the people who needed her, and they loved her enough to give her very special Christmas gifts. Before she went into the nursing home, I asked Mother who made these ceramics for her. "Brenda Tuttle," she said. I don't know the lady, but I wrote her name on the bottom of one of the camels with a marker so her gift wouldn't be forgotten.
Every granddaughter I've had, beginning with Amber, has played with Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary, and moved the camels around to change the scene a bit. So of course, the whole Nativity set has become more precious each year because of the little hands that have touched it.
I'm not a "people person". But my mom was. And in the past few years, any time I've caught myself being too critical of her, I remind myself that anyone who had that many friends, couldn't have been anything short of wonderful.