The only thing certain in life is change …
Last December, my blog post told the story of my “llama mama” duty at the annual live animal Christmas pageant at the First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland.
Here is the link:
This year, for the first time, I will not be leading the llama during the majestic procession of the Three Kings during the pageant. I changed churches and opened a new chapter in my life.
This Christmas Eve will be bittersweet, as none of the founders of the pageant will be present to participate. Somehow, as in a death, life does go on. I will miss the fun, the Christmas spirit, the people and most of all, the llama.
I have many fond memories. During an early pageant, the donkey was stubborn and would not join Mary and Joseph up the ramp to the manger scene set up in front of the Sanctuary. The senior minister, acting as pageant narrator, left the pulpit to literally push the donkey’s behind up the ramp to laughter. He had been raised on a farm and understood animals. There was a sheep who kept ba’aing during the soprano’s solo. And, I can’t forget the poor shepherd who had a lamb douse him with urine and the poor man was wet and reeking after the event. There were children who dangerously climbed under a massive camel and had to be urged out lest they be trampled. So many stories …
One year I had a young llama I had been warned to be in the habit of sitting and not budging at inopportune moments. Yes, he did it midway down the aisle. As directed, I used the front of my foot to pry up his rear end to get him up and moving again. Contrary to what some audience member’s thought, I did not nor would I ever kick him. Once, I carried a baby llama in my arms down the aisle, a 25-pound armful of fluff. I also had a two-year old llama race me up the aisle and I had to hold on and rein him in. One was belligerent and spat at an overhead light while we were awaiting our cue. Adolescent male llamas can be quite a handful. I had led several generations of a llama family through the years. Overall, llama’s are gentle, sweet, affectionate and behave like overgrown dogs. Audience members and even some church members assumed that I owned and raised the llamas, since I managed them so well. I guess that my love and understanding of animals came through.
I did have some weird incidents. People can be stupid. Years ago, we used to stand in the back of the church after the pageant to allow children to pet the animals. I was once standing with two-year old male llama when a young man approached holding his toddler. Instead of petting the llama, as I had expected, the man smacked it across the face. I was livid and asked him what he would do if I smacked him? It was unbelievable. Pageant participants also did not understand llamas and I had to keep urging children to back off and not sit or stand behind the llama. They wouldn’t listen when I told them that llamas are used to guard sheep because coyotes and wolves wouldn’t go near. Why? Because, a llama can kick so hard as to kill a predator in a single kick. Also, I had to make sure there was room to move. Llamas do not like to stand still and are restless. Walking in circles is the only way they could be kept occupied during the pageant. I hope that the new llama tender reads up on them before taking the position or there will be serious problems. Animals are not predictable.
Alas, my Christmas Eve will be different. No getting glamorous for the pageant and rushing to the church. No llama duty and pageantry. No scurrying after the service to grab dinner before the 11p.m. contemplative service. This year will be different. Quiet. Very different.
The legacy I helped create with founding minister Rev. Dr. Jim Cowin, and the late Vi Gore will live on. It’s gratifying to know that the event has been a resounding success with children and adults alike. May the pageantry continue.
God bless everyone!
Have a very Merry Christmas!