Friday, December 23, 2011

The empty manger

In 1996, when The Boy was a mere 5 months old and Crash firmly and wonderfully two, we spent Advent in Vienna. Math Man had an appointment at the Schrödinger Institute (blackboards everywhere, including the women's room!) and I was on maternity leave, so the whole family decamped to a small apartment off Leopoldsgasse.

It was an Advent of darkness and light. We had not a single day of sun during our time there, but buildings everywhere were swathed in white lights. The boys and I took daily excursions to see the sights, zipped into their double stroller. One afternoon we went to the Christkindlmarkt by the Rathaus. My mother-in-law had told me stories of this Christmas market (which had been there for about 200 years) and I was not disappointed. The trees were gorgeously lit, the street food wonderful (Crash managed to get covered in chocolate despite his snowsuit) and the little stands packed with treasures.

My father made the stable that went under my family tree, with a traditional ceramic set of figurues. I loved to contemplate the camels and the three Kings and wonder at the distance they had traveled, the strange lands they had come from. (Who knew that someday I would ride a camel in the Middle East?). I had a stable found on sale at an outlet when I was a graduate student, with a set of figures much like the ones I grew up with. As I wandered the market I happened upon a stall filled with creche figures, intricately carved and colored. They were gorgeous, and expensive. The budget stretched (barely) to Mary, Joseph, the babe and one other figure. Though I coveted the kings and their camels, it was not to be. I bought a shepherd and a ewe nursing her lamb (as a reminder of all those cold Vienna nights when I got up to get The Boy from his crib to nurse).

This year I found the shop's online shadow and ordered the kings and their camels. Who might be here by Epiphany....


  1. What a wonderful story! Such good memories and an excellent find to be able to order the rest of it. Hopefully, the kings will complete their long journey by the 12th day.

    We will set up our nativity set tomorrow. It is Erik's favorite thing to do.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. and you made me smile. thanks.

  3. I love this- the way you have woven all of these events in your life into such rich reflections. Beautiful. Merry Christmas and every blessing to you and yours and to all who grace these pages.

  4. wonderful story. Hope everything arrived safely