"Hello, Paul! Hello, Paul!"
My voice goes very high as I move a fat, fluffy lamb ornament across the arm of a chair toward a one-and-a-half-year-old on Christmas Day. Hanging on a low branch of his grandparents' Christmas tree, the lamb had been an easy target for Paul's finger. Rescued from the floor, the ornament became an impromptu puppet and I its puppeteer.
When Paul's mother was growing up, she and her sister and her brother used to take turns moving three creche figures of the Magi across the living room. Day by day, the three kings got closer and closer to where the doll-like figures of Mary and Joseph flanked an infant Jesus. It was a custom I did not recall from my own childhood Christmases, but I loved the idea of animating the figures -- making them puppets, in effect.
A little boy like me had been permitted to like puppets, slipping my hand into the cloth garments, nodding a puppet head with a sudden crook of my finger, making my voice sound like Tinker Bell or Muggs. Those were my favorite puppets, and I could make them hop and fly and appear to sleep and then wake up. I could do with the puppets what I saw girls my age and older do with their dolls.
On a corner of the mantlepiece in my apartment are three figures that belong to a creche set that I had bought when I was in grammar school. Each figure shows an old ink imprint of twenty-nine cents on the underside of its base -- these three kings had been a dollar's investment.
I think I have grown up to resemble one of them.