Heir­looms

A creche made with wood from the farm brings back happy mem­o­ries.

Country - - CONTENTS - BY MARY ANN KOONTZ

Christ­mas is a time for cel­e­brat­ing our faith and fam­i­lies, putting up dec­o­ra­tions, and shar­ing mem­o­ries and tra­di­tions from days gone by. All these things are wrapped up like Baby Je­sus in our cher­ished creche, which my hus­band, Tom, made us­ing ma­te­ri­als from his grand­par­ents’ woods. Tom’s late grand­par­ents had lived just out­side of Fort Wayne, In­di­ana, on a farm they named Wal­nut Hills. It was a spe­cial place to Tom be­cause as a boy he, his brother and cousin spent a cou­ple of weeks there each sum­mer. The kids learned what coun­try life was all about—bal­ing the hay and straw, feed­ing cows, pigs and chick­ens, and muck­ing out the an­i­mals’ stalls. Not ev­ery­thing was work, though. When chores were done, they found am­ple time to play in the woods. They built tree­houses and fished in the creek that curled through the shade of wal­nut, hick­ory and maple trees. A hill at the edge of the woods was per­fect for try­ing out go-karts they built us­ing scrap wood and tires found in the weath­ered barn. It was a thrill to drive the trac­tor, mow­ing the main grassy trail that snaked through the woods. The trail ended at an old oak tree, its bent limbs point­ing to open fields at the back of the prop­erty. In the fall, the fam­ily chopped fire­wood to fuel the coal-burn­ing fur­nace in the small farm­house, which was built in the early 1900s. In the win­ter they went skat­ing on the frozen creek and sled­ded on the same hill that their go-karts had chris­tened in the sum­mer. Aboard snow­mo­biles, they raced along the snow-cov­ered paths and out to the glis­ten­ing fields. Maybe it was be­cause of these great mem­o­ries that Tom chose pieces of bark and branches from those very woods to cre­ate a oneof-a-kind Na­tiv­ity sta­ble in 1980, the year our first child was born. He made all the pil­lars from cut branches, and cov­ered the roof with pieces of bark care­fully ar­ranged in an over­lap­ping pat­tern. On the back of the creche Tom added a mu­sic box that plays “Silent Night.” Our two kids loved wind­ing up the box on Christ­mas when they were young. A night light il­lu­mi­nates the creche’s in­te­rior along with some fig­urines I stained. They are placed in and around the Na­tiv­ity scene each year. As spe­cial Christ­mas gifts, Tom and I made Na­tiv­ity sets for his grand­par­ents, par­ents, brother and sis­ter. Be­cause the wood came from the farm, each one is unique. Ev­ery Christ­mas we care­fully place our creche on a bed of cot­ton bat­ting for dis­play. The sight of it al­ways trans­ports Tom back to his child­hood days and many fond mem­o­ries at Wal­nut Hills farm.

A light casts a holy glow on Tom and Mary Ann’s creche.

Tom made this creche in 1980.

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