Thursday, December 21, 2006
I normally don't see television during the day, but Sister St. Aloysius leaves the TV on a lot for Sister Mary Fiacre to keep her amused. If I see anything that is on during the day it is because, for reasons known only to her, Sister St. Aloysius has taped something for me.
This week she taped Martha Stewart's new program which is on every morning. Martha Stewart is the only person I've ever encountered who is as excited about Christmas as I am...any person over age seven, I should say. She is excited in a way that is..........disturbing.
Years ago I saw her Christmas spectacular...special would not be a special enough word. She had her whole extended family pounding tin, gluing glitter, gathering twigs to tie together and glue glitter on and poke into styrofoam to make giant wreaths, building a gigantic gingerbread house out of actual gingerbread and then making spun sugar for the window glass. And that was just the decorating part. There was also a home made gift part that included making those buckwheat pillows and cut work cards and tatting. Tin snips were involved. There was also a cooking part in which she mentioned that years ago she challenged her daughter, who was a child at the time, to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie, the poor kid, although the child managed to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie at some point.
It went on an on. I felt really sorry for her family, I recall. And of course, I felt inadequate, which I think is Martha's Stewart's ultimate goal in life: to make everyone else feel inadequate.
To be fair to me, where I grew up elves did all that stuff, working all week behind the sheets over the living room doorways, including making the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Anyhow, the reason Sister St. Aloysius taped this particular episode is that Mrs. Stewart was going to show her creche. You have to know it wasn't going to come in a box from K-Mart (yet).
You have to assume that Mrs. Stewart would have made her own creche out of heaven knows what....twigs, coffee cans, molded sand with each grain counted for numeralogical significance....maybe she tatted them.
They were ceramic. Kind of dull, really. Beautiful ceramic work! Dull color. Brown like weak tea with milk in it. The whole thing, each piece, all that ooky brown. It was huge. It took up a whole table. For example, she had made each wise man AND each camel. No wise man ON a camel to save time.
It's turns out she should have tried to save some time.
Because the thing that was oddly disturbing about the whole scene was how she introduced it. "I made this while I was at blah-de blah, " she said cheerily. We didn't really catch the name, assuming it was some exotic vacation spot or ceramics sanctuary where only people like Mrs. Stewart are welcomed.
It soon became clear she was talking about prison. She made the whole thing while she was in prison. If she had said "in" instead of "at" we may have figured it out more quickly. As it was our jaws were dropping. The studio audience giggled uncomfortably.
Now, I don't necessarily think Mrs. Stewart should hang her head in shame about her jail bird past. She did her time. Some people believe she was scape goated. Whatever.
It took me several days to figure out why the whole thing disturbed me.
Two things: I didn't care for the creche. It looked like it was made from food and any minute we would be asked to bite the heads off the shepherds. Mrs. Stewart's mother was in the audience and when Mrs. Stewart asked her mother, "What do you think, Mom?" Her mother made a face like she had just smelled the mouse Teddy left under the night stand last summer.
Mrs. Stewart got special treatment to make the unattractive creche. Telling us that the giant Nativity set took many hours to make, she happily explained that at the Big House they were only allowed one hour a week to do ceramics and she had 'begged' for more time in the ceramics room because she was an expert ceramicist. She must have known, even then, that she needed to time to make the big thing to put on her show and later sell knock- offs of it at K-Mart.
Some prison. Although I'm sure Mrs. Stewart has learned her lesson, which is the whole point. Still, if I tell a student to go stand in the corner, I don't give him fun project to do while he's there. I want him to think about his sin. And if he doesn't think about his sin, I at least want him to be bored and miserable enough to not do whatever it was ever again. If he comes out of there with a giant ceramic creche, complete with sheep and cows and palm trees (yes, there were palm trees but they were not ceramic) I've done something terribly wrong.