I am scrabbling in drawers trying to unearth a needle and thread. It is midnight and my son’s nativity starts at 9am. I have just discovered a slip of paper – folded into a rather impressive dart plane – in his book bag.
Your child is… First King – Gold
Please provide… King Costume
It’s too late to call the parents of King II or III for clarification as to what, precisely, King Costume entails.
Instead I look at Pinterest and instantly regret it. Miniature mock-royals beam radiantly from the folds of heavy velvet cloaks trimmed with fur (real or faux?), piped in gold and plumped with what I can only assume is pure goose down plucked by the hands of virgin maids. The crowns range from paper-cut and sprayed to, in one case, meticulously foiled in gold leaf. No surprises that this mother also hand-carved an orb and sceptre, presumably from her own grow-it-yourself-if-you’re-crafty-enough forest.
‘It’s not a competition’, I remind myself. I pour a large glass of Malbec and open the dressing-up box.
Last year the instructions were far simpler. He was cast as an angel and needed ‘pale trousers and a long-sleeved top, preferably white’. We had both. Job done in roughly two minutes: four if you include bending a coat hanger and wrapping it in tinfoil to make a halo.
A silver shark costume, two Spidermen and a rogue fairy-wand to play with, I rise to the challenge, and beyond. I don’t mind admitting there’s some glitter where gold might be, but it’s passable.
He’s a natural performer, my eldest. His startle reflex looked like jazz hands and, like his theatrical Grandmother, he always errs on the side of drama. He could wear a bin bag and a flat cap and still come off Kingly.
And I tell myself this, in spite of the alarm on my husband’s face when he claps eyes on it. “No King in his right mind would be seen dead in that” he says, in earshot of the bed-sheet-enrobed boy, who rightly counters, “No King in his right mind would give away gold just because a baby was born!”
Gold. Shit. I dig the foil-wrapped coins out of the pockets of the boy’s advent calendar – allowable in the circumstances – to provide the final touch and we leg it to the church.
At the end of the performance – Mary and Joseph left reclining nervously on what look suspiciously like tubular aluminium sunbeds – he bounds over, full of sweaty, spot-light adrenalin and asks for another gold coin.
“I had to give them to Joseph (playing Joseph, really), Will (the Angel Gabriel) and Harry (King II) and I haven’t got any left for Alex (King II).”
“Why did you ‘have’ to give them away?” I ask.
“Because they said I was dressed like a scarecrow and unless I gave them the chocolate I had to stand behind the flock of sheep and use my stick to herd them.”
“Orb, it’s an Orb.” I say, “Not a stick.”
Lydia Gard is the Editor of Mr Fox. She has two boys aged 2 and 6. Her idea of a perfect winter Sunday is a bracing morning run followed by a long bath before an afternoon of board games, food, wine and family.