Swaddling Cloths

I was wrapping some gifts early afternoon on the 24th, and got caught in the process of folding the gift-wrap paper properly. I made sure the folds around the edges of the small boxes I was wrapping were not too creased, and approximated the look one sees on professionally wrapped gifts. I think I was somewhat successful. I usually buy gift bags. This time though, I thought I'd use gift-wrapping paper, the kind that's colonized by Santa Claus smiles. But as my hands felt the texture of paper I was folding and taping, my mind slipped into some vague memories of Christmas in childhood, a time that usually involved Christmas school programs, and images of a baby born in a manger, dramatized and choreographed by bodies of children.

I think I was a Joseph once or twice, and a shepherd or king a few times. Predictably, the dominant words that wrapped these yearly programs were Christmas, Jesus, or Baby Jesus, including Bethlehem. Thus, I can say there were many Bethlehems in my past, illuminated by the smiles and giggles of their nativity-scene actors. In these Bethlehems were usually plastic babies. That baby's name and what he stands for are probably two swaddling cloths, out of a few, that has been holding this world and its history for centuries, which may not be babies anymore. The firm hold persists, as the crying continues. You can't help but hold it close to you, and sometimes lull the cries with lullabies.

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