On Christmas Eve the year I turned two, my big brother reported that the plastic figurines of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus had disappeared from our nativity scene. I was nearby.
My mother, a worrier who avoided plum pudding sixpences for fear we’d choke, opened my little fist and found one of the three wise men. ‘Where are Jesus, Mary and Joseph?’ she demanded. I smiled. She panicked.
She telephoned my uncle, the doctor. ‘Oh my God, I think she’s eaten them,’ she said.
‘My God, indeed,’ my uncle replied. ‘You need a priest, not a doctor.’ After more humour in similar vein (it’s a miracle, she’s a saint etc), he said, ‘Soft food; make sure she passes them.’
Miraculously, I had no pain, despite our Holy Family’s edges. Christmas day found me on the verandah at my grandmother’s house in Fortitude Valley; strips of sunlight, a breeze fanning my face, and dear Nana, a former nurse, dosing me with cuddles and treats during half-hourly pulse checks.
Presents were reallocated, to compensate for Christmas lunch. My brothers, whose tip truck I scored, struggled through onion-stuffed chicken and loathesome vegetables in the dining room, while I feasted on custard, jelly and ice cream on my day-bed.
I don’t know if Mum made sure I passed the Holy Family as my uncle had prescribed. And I don’t want to know. To be honest, I like to imagine they’ve stayed on, somewhere inside me, radiating the Christmas spirit, bringing me joy through all these years.