Saturday, February 2, 2013

Honoring the Past, Looking Forward to the Future

Today, I finally put away the Nativity Scene.  I know Christmas is long gone, but having it up gave me a sense of closeness with my Oma.  My brother and I would help her set it up every year we were near.  Carefully we would place each piece in whatever arrangement met our fancy that year.  It was always set up on this long, dark table that sat against the wall in the formal living room. It was one of the first things you saw when you entered her house.  Setting up the Nativity Scene was one of many traditions we shared with Oma.

As I wrap each of the pieces in gobs of tissue paper, I try to be as gentle as possible.  Most of the pieces are in excellent condition but a few are chipped and worn.  In particular, poor Joseph's paint is cracking all over the place.  He gets the most tissue and the least direct handling.  Each piece is placed carefully inside the handmade manger before wrapped carefully in plastic and stored in a plastic tote.

As I wrap, I notice a piece of paper stuck to the bottom of one of the figures.  It has the shape and texture of one of those cheap sticky price tags you might see in the dollar store but it is worn and faded.  On it is typed two letters and three numbers - DM 2, 50.  Five of the figures have this same stamp.  Another is marked DM 2, 25 and three others are marked DM 2, 75.  Knowing my Oma came from Germany, my assumption is these are prices: Deutsche Marks.  For these figures to come from Germany means my Oma either inherited them from another family member or she bought them herself.  If she bought them, it would have been long ago since I remember this Nativity Scene from my very young childhood.  I can only assume these pieces are at least 30 years old.

I also know my Oma came from Germany when she was a young girl, a teenager I believe.  She was in Germany during WWII.  After she came to the United States, after the war was over, Oma went back to Germany to visit family several times and sometimes they would come visit us.  Despite knowing of her visits, I like to think this Nativity Scene came over with Oma when she was a girl.  Maybe it is the faded paint on the figures or the style of artwork and craftsmanship, but it feels old.  These figures are potentially 60 years old - or more. A piece of history, a time when things were both simpler and more complex than today.

I cannot thank my Oma for all the Christmas memories she gave me.  I cannot thank you for showing me the importance of tradition.  All I can do is honor the past and pass these memories and traditions on to my own future children.

Danke schön, Oma, und gute nacht.