Family & Education

An ‘I Love Lucy’ Christmas

A holiday caper has unexpected results
TIMEDecember 21, 2021

Growing up in the 1960s, my favorite show was “I Love Lucy.” It made me laugh to see how Lucy was always getting herself and her husband, Ricky, into predicaments. Periodically and unfortunately, I can relate.

A while back, my parents left their home of 51 years to live in an independent senior apartment building. Outside each apartment is a small corner shelf for residents to personally decorate. With the holidays approaching, the small corner shelves, as well as the building lobby areas, were beautifully decorated with Christmas trees, wreaths, Santa and all his workshop helpers, Stars of David, and menorahs.

Walking throughout the hallways, my mom frequently whispered, “In all these decorations, there aren’t any signs of the birth of Jesus.” To avoid offending her new neighbors, she kept her comments quiet and put a candy dish on her corner shelf.

It was an icy, cold Sunday just before Christmas. After going to mass and out for breakfast, my husband Mike and I dropped my parents off at their apartment. By this time, Mike was familiar with Mom’s “no signs of Jesus” whispers.

This is when my Lucy tendencies surfaced. Despite poor road conditions, we decided to go shopping for nativity sets—one for the main lobby and another for my parents’ floor lobby. After driving all over town, we found two beautiful ceramic sets and headed back to the senior apartments.

Mike pulled the car up to the front entrance and I unpacked the figures as little white Styrofoam pieces scattered everywhere. I took off my coat, laid it flat on my lap, and placed two Marys, two Josephs, and the rest gently inside. I wrapped up my coat and ran into the building.

In the main lobby, I respectfully moved a few reindeer and placed one nativity set adjacent to a menorah. I scooped up my coat, took the elevator up to my parents’ floor, repositioned a few elves, and set up the second nativity across from a blue Star of David.

After leaving the building, I jumped in the car to go home, pleased as punch that our secret caper had gone off without a hitch—or so I thought.

That night my mom called, utterly joyful. She said: “You are not going to believe this! There is a lovely nativity set on the table by my elevator and another in the main lobby!”

“Oh! That’s great, Mom,” I said, feigning surprise.

The following night, I invited them over for dinner. Entering our kitchen, and looking incredulous, Mom said: “You know that nativity set in our floor lobby? They took it down, picked it up, and are questioning the floor residents about who put it there without asking permission!” I quickly turned away and stirred the sauce on the stove like “wide-eyed Lucy.”

Most people are private about sharing their beliefs. Their faith is expressed with actions more frequently than words. And that is exactly what happened on my parents’ floor. Remember those small corner shelves decorated with everything but signs of the birth of Jesus? Each day following my “Lucy Escapade,” snowmen, elves, and candy dishes were replaced with nativity sets in all sizes, colors, and varieties. Walking down the hallway, I felt the presence of our Lord smiling.

In case you are wondering, I finally came clean and told my parents the truth. But then I blamed the whole thing on Ricky.

Bernadette Bonanno lives in Albany, N.Y.