She had just turned 3, and it was late for her to be awake. But this was Christmas Eve. So she was in the choir loft with us, wedged between open guitar cases and pressing her nose between the wooden slats.
The sanctuary of the Old Mission, with its decor culled from its Spanish and Native American origins, was crowded with vivid red poinsettias. Candles winked slightly as drafts of chill air crept in from the California winter night.
We were anticipating the end of the liturgy. The pastor, as local tradition dictated, would emerge from behind the altar, the antique statue of the Christ child cradled against his vestments. He would then proceed the length of the aisle and exit out the wide doors to the Nativity on the Mission's lawn. There, warmed by the breath of the donkey and the wooly presence of three sheep, the child would be laid — in a crude manger between the statues of Joseph and Mary.
From her perch, my daughter could make out the movement near the altar. But it wasn't until the procession had come halfway down the aisle that she caught sight of the Christ child.
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