13. The stars in the bright sky

“I’ve made you a present, Mrs Jellywoman.  Can I put it under the tree?”

I’ve gone into halo production with a queue of Reception children in enormous white t-shirts, white tights and black plimsolls (the footwear of choice in the angel community) waiting to be beatified, ready for that afternoon’s Nativity play.  Owen – already dressed to give the world his Second Innkeeper – has appeared at my elbow holding two toothpaste boxes glued together at right-angles.

“Well, thank you Owen.  What is it?”  He looks a little disappointed that I’ve had to ask, but patiently answers, “It’s a cross.”

“Of course it is.  Silly me.”

“It’s for when you die,” he adds, earnestly.  He carefully opens the flap of one of the boxes.  “Your body goes in there.”

“How thoughtful,” I laugh.  “Yes – of course you can put it under the tree.  I promise I won’t use it till Christmas.”

But Owen is now frowning at his creation.  “Do you think it needs some glitter?”

“Coffins are often sadly lacking in glitter,” I agree.

He wanders back to the sticking table where Miss Sugarsprinkles is on coronation duties, attempting to adjust Felicia’s crown so that it can fit over her braids but doesn’t then tumble around her neck.  Next to her, one of the Stars has discovered that the strip of golden tissue paper around her wrist makes a great sound when swished in the air.  Her mate joins in and soon there is a whole constellation of stars, swishing away and singing.

“Everybody in love, put your hands up.  Everybody in love, put your hands up.  Everybody in love, put your hands up.  Everybody in love, put your …”

“Lovely, ladies,” I call over.  “You’ll make a wonderful group of call-girls.”

Miss Sugarsprinkles bursts out laughing.  “I think you mean cheerleaders, Mrs Jellywoman.  At least I hope you do.”

I’m on my final halo when Owen re-appears.  He has taped together three tubes, two besides each other and one on top.

“I’ve made this for the kings so they can look at the stars,” he says.  “It’s some noculars.”  He holds them up to his face.  You look through this tube with one eye and this tube with the other eye.”

“Another winner, Owen.  And the tube on the top is…?”

He sighs, patiently.  “That’s in case you have another eye.”

“Of course it is.  Sorry – very inclusive of you.”  Owen is now looking thoughtfully at his noculars.

“Do you think it needs…?”

“Sorry Owen,” I say, tying off the last tinsel halo.  We’ve got to start lining up now. ”

We do a last minute check at the classroom door, Miss Sugarsprinkles and I.  Tea-towels at 3 o’clock, chocks away!

We’re just heading off down the corridor, when I realise that we are short of a Mary.  I head back into the classroom, holding one of the friskier camels by the hoof, and spot her curled up in our Santa’s Workshop, tears streaming down her face.

I crouch next to her and ask what’s wrong.

“I don’t know the song about the door,” she wails.

Song about the door?  Which one is that?

“The song about the door,” she gulps.  “I don’t know it.”

I have no idea what she is talking about.  I improvise.

“Oh, that song! Didn’t I tell you, Mary doesn’t sing that one.  She just smiles because she’s happy.  You can manage that, I know you can.  Let’s see that lovely smile.  That’s perfect.”

I wipe her face, adjust her tea-towel and we catch up with the rest of the line.  Miss Sugarsprinkles is already leading the children into the hall and seating them on the benches.  Mrs Green is improvising on the piano as we prepare for our first song – O Come All Ye Faithful.  We belt out the first verse and as we get to the chorus, Mary catches my eye and smiles.

“O Come let us…”

Ah – the song about the door.

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