He whittled it from some soft wood, probably pine, and then because Mom wanted one, he built a creche for it from a slightly darker wood. Tonight, as I sit in the near darkness of their living room, I can just see it in the place where Mom always put it atop the antique desk they bought for $15 from a neighbor when they were first married.

We do not hide the baby Jesus as some families do. He sits there, his arms akimbo and straight out from his shoulders, an infant reminder of the position he will hold in 33 years.

Several sheep attend him as do a donkey and some barn cats (another touch added for Mom). The wise men are regal, the shepherds swathed in wooden folds. The angels are gloriously invisible in the midnight sky I imagine above them.

I will set up a cat or a sheep several times over the next two weeks – a furred cat or fumbling human will certainly knock them over. I will almost not notice this nativity, the one nearly identical to my own that is packed in a Christmas tin somewhere, each time I walk by it. But it will be here, where Mom always put it, where Dad has laid it tonight without announcement. A humble reminder so fitting for so much memory.