Little things matter

Our story so far: As we demo the interior, we found a multitude of items in our old church to toss or give away.

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Two and a half weeks after we closed on the church, Tyler’s hired man St. Johnny tackled the closet I had once told Tyler I would clean out first. So many other priorities had pushed their way to the front of the line.

The closet was a single door along the eave on the second floor. When we’d first toured the church, a hand-lettered sign was posted on the closet door warning: “Do not open!” Of course, I opened it. Inside I found a couple of paint cans and a whole lot of dirty insulation.

“Oh, I think I read somewhere they had a wild animal in here. Maybe it was in there,” the real estate agent said.

But Stan the squirrel found a final resting place elsewhere.

Now, St. Johnny was demolishing the whole wall; my procrastination had become his opportunity. We hoped to create storage there, maybe enclosed by short, sliding barn doors.

St. Johnny found a whole lot more than old paint (but no live animals). The single closet door led to a long space along the eave, filled with Christmas decorations. Ah, so the church had already been using it as storage. Unfortunately, all of it was covered in a thick layer of dust and insulation.

As usual, St. Johnny moved boxes to my sorting station, and I sorted through them to determine what was garbage, what was worth donating and what was worth keeping.

All of the tinsel, the Easter basket stuffing and a box of Christmas manger costumes some Sunday School class in 1970 wore went into the dumpster. Some talented mom (or a moms) had turned a passel of second graders into proud shepherds watching a flock of kindergarteners by night. But the costumes had seen better days. At least three hundred dollars worth of multi-colored Christmas lights went to the basement; at some later date we would determine if these lights could be used to decorate the exterior of the church.

I found two manger scenes. One included a lighted plastic three-foot tall Holy Family. I couldn’t bear to relegate the miniature family to the dumpster, so I situated them on the curb. It was an unseasonably warm day in the middle of December, and only an hour went by before a passing van determined they had room at the inn.

“Hey, are you giving these away?”

“Yup,” I called out from inside the church, “they’re all yours.”

At the other manger-scene extreme was a cardboard stable filled with little figurines. The disintegrating barn went into the dumpster. But like their bigger relatives, I couldn’t bear to toss the figurines. So I brought them home, intent on at least washing them before giving them away.

three marys
Three Marys, one baby.

As I scrubbed their faces gently in the soapy dishwater (the “gently” part came after I erased a Wise Man’s face—ugh), I determined the figurines came from at least three different crèche scenes. I had three Marys but only one baby Jesus; this evoked a memory of my little brother who repeatedly stole Baby Sweets from my Mattel Sunshine Family back in the late 1970s—babies can be so compelling. Still, maybe someone was missing a Mary. So on the last day of the year I used my final opportunity to claim a tax deduction for a charitable donation, and I transported my motley manger family to Goodwill. Maybe someone would find a treasure in an expressionless Wise Man, or maybe not. But at least I tried.

defaced wise man
Tell me I’m not the only one reminded of the man whose face melted when he looked at the contents of the Ark in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

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Tomorrow: Some things are even more sacred than figurines of the Holy Family. Click here to read it.

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