A Christmas Story, Southern Style
There is an old joke about the birth of Christ that goes something like this:
What would have happened if it had been three wise women instead of three wise men?
They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stables, and bought practical gifts.
There's no doubt, as women in general, we are certainly quite capable of rising to an important and historic challenge such as that one. It's just that if they had been Southern women; well... let's just say things would have turned out even more differently.
Now, of course, these three Southern ladies would have asked for directions. They just would've pinched their cheeks, fluffed their hair, and combed the camel before dismounting to ask the nice-looking shepherd man which way to the inn. After taking a wrong turn at the fish monger's stall and passing the same shepherd not once, but twice, the women would concur that asking for directions never really works, not like their intuition which is spot on every time, so they end up following the star anyway.
Despite the minor setback with the directions, three bathroom breaks, and a quick stop to pick up the perfect sack of wine, the three Southern women arrive just in the nick of time. Not only do they help deliver the baby, they strategically place a few dozen lanterns around the stable to offer the best possible ambient lighting. They also host the town lyrist with the promise of a good meal in exchange for appropriate (meaning nothing too loud or flashy) background music. Then, they would retrieve the warm blankets they found on sale (buy two, get one free) a couple of villages over from atop camels.
Next, when the innkeeper pops in to say hello, he finds the stables immaculate and can actually see the floor for the first time since Caesar Augustus rolled into Rome. After he offers a job at the inn or, at the very least, a marriage proposal for anyone interested, all three women kindly demur telling him, " We didn't do much, really" and "It's all in a day’s work" before shooing him out the back door and rolling their eyes in unison at his sheer audacity in popping the question at "a time like this."
As soon as the fire is stoked and they've swaddled the baby Jesus tighter than a goat cheese stuffed fig wrapped in a laurel leaf, it's time to cook. Now theseSouthern wise women would probably say, why make one casserole when you can make five? And don't forget, they'd tell Mary, the left over beef parts make for great gravy, especially when sautéed with a smidge of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and a half clove of garlic preferably minced.
After Joseph has gone in for his third and fourth helping, he thanks them from his horizontal position on the mat in front of the manager. "It was nothing, really!" they all say with a wave of their hand as they clear, clean, and stack the dishes. Knowing when not to wear out their welcome, the three ladies prepare to say their goodbyes. This includes the cardinal rule of the South that practical advice wins over practical gifts any day, even if they're for our Savior, the Son of God. So after passing on a recipe or catnip to ease colic, instructions on how to boil honey and mint as a cure for whooping cough, and handing down a grandmother's secret formula for using sage to staunch off post-partum (AND make a really good stuffing), our three Southern women depart in a frenzy of hugs, kisses, and promises to return sooner rather than later.
While riding out of town, under a star dusted sky, our three Southern gals discuss how a woman's work is never done and the fact that they are so bone-tired they hope they don't fall asleep on the ride home and fall off their camels... or run into that seedy little shepherd man who surely gave them the wrong directions on purpose and almost ruined a perfectly good evening.
Please don't think I am saying men are incapable of showing up at something sacred as the birth of Christ and getting the job done. No, they are quite competent all on their own. It's just that we Southern women have been taught since we could walk, talk, and macramé, that there is no shame whatsoever in going over the top, especially at Christmas.
And it also just so happens that the last time I asked my husband to put up the Christmas tree in the sunroom, he hog tied it to the drapery rods and then super glued the star on top directly to the ceiling. I guess, even though I applaud his ingenuity, I'd rather do the whole thing myself.
So, Merry Christmas, y'all. I sincerely hope you have a wonderful holiday that's light on duct tape, fishing string, and faulty wiring, but heavy on laughter, good food, great company, and sage advice.