“Twelve monkey mating, ‘leven donkeys dancing, ten pygmies farming, nine socks a-swimming…FIVE GOLD RINGS!”
– Eddie Izzard
As promised, here is one of our favorite and probably most quirky/embarassing family traditions. Long ago, my mother made some hand puppets for a group Christmas project. Nothing fancy, just felt oven mitt sorts of things. We used them for years at Christmastime to act out the Nativity Story, without incident or indiscretion until one year, Dad had the brilliant idea to turn on the video recorder.
The footage of this historic event is long departed into the void of computer-crashing-moving-technical-kablooey, but mutual stored memory among the siblings suggests a potential fist-fight behind the stage (sofa) and much arguing and some sacrilegious name-calling.
In subsequent years our quiet family puppet show devolved from its auspicious starting point. It didn’t take too long for it to hit the point of parody.
The next year King Herod breathed like Darth Vadar (complete with asthma inhaler), and the Holy Virgin did lamaze breathing to calm her nerves while Saint Joseph (who was captain of the football team at Nazareth High) stumbled about flexing uselessly. The cap and crown to our we-will-go-to-Hell-for-this performance was the angel Gabriel as played by Yoda as played by Dad. “Annunciating I am! Have a baby you willll…” His voice cracked on the last word and has become holiday tradition ever since to impersonate Dad (as Yoda as Gabriel) choking. Somehow, I misremember, the cow featured prominently leading Gio to exclaim, “It’s a holy cow!” which immediately became our production company name.
A subsequent year featured a lampooning of Monty Python: the taunting Frenchman as the inn-keeper, Mika as the Dreaded Black Beast of Augh, an improvised kick-line (performed by the intrepid puppeteers) and, naturally, the falling cow of catapult fame.
Our most memorable foray into the dark, iredeemable depths of nerdiness was a Lord of the Rings spoof. Our three wisemen (Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli) form the Fellowship of the King. Galabriel annuciates. The shepherds of Rohan ride sheep around energetically. Mary, who looks wearily into the camera and whines and constantly about the terrible burden she is forced to carry alone, is saved when Joseph Gamgee (Gio) declares, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry YOU!” and sweeps the other puppet gallantly off. Then there is the memorable presentation of the gifts: gold, myrrh, “and my axe!” There were random interjections of Buddy’s dragon puppet (which does not feature in the usual cast, but he wanted to use it), Gio stole one of Snickers’ lines which nearly brought on an actors’ strike, and most of the outtakes feature us alternatively arguing with one another or dissolving into giggles while Dad vainly demands, “Quiet on the set!”
We are hopless, helpless dorks.