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