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O Holy Night

I was asked to be St. Joseph in the annual Christmas parade down Main Street. I was 13. The beard hooked over my ears and I froze as I walked more than a mile, in December, dressed in Aunt Joyce’s nightgown. The Virgin Mary was played by Wanda Whitbeck, whom I didn’t know personally because she went to the public school and I was in the Catholic school. But everyone had heard of Wanda. She started smoking in the 5th grade and drinking in the 7th grade. She was a pioneer. She wore a basketball under her nightgown and told me with a flare to never hold her hand. All of Amsterdam turned out to see the spectacle. Some of Wanda’s friends kept pace with us down Main Street taunting the virgin. “Yo Wanda’s knocked up!” ‘Hey Wanda you got a bun in the oven?” “Lookin good Wanda!” When the Virgin Mary could take it no more she stopped the procession and turned to the crowd. “Shut the FUCK up!” the virgin beseeched. We arrived at the steps of St. Michaels church - an elaborate gothic cathedral standing in for a stable. There in the manger lay the baby Jesus, who was played by Susie-Splash-A-Lot. The town roared with cheers and no one mentioned that we’d apparently left the baby alone in a manger a mile from where we started, or that Mary was still basketball pregnant while holding her doll.


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