The Middle Ages: I’m going to blow up Instagram with a ‘live birth in the front yard’ manger display

It’s not just the cheeses and the meats in this holiday spread. It’s the tablecloth that impresses me. Such a dad reaction.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Took a life-expectancy survey on the internet the other day, entered my family history, lifestyle habits, current age, and the website predicted I would live to 83. Which means I have some 23 Christmases left. That’s the good news. Or the bad news.

The website did not factor in how many kids I have, so I’m a little skeptical of the results.

In any case, I thought 23 was life-affirming, at least for a man who never stands when he can sit and never sits when he can lie down.


Speaking of life-affirming, at my older daughter’s tree party the other night, there was a guest so gloriously pregnant that she appeared to be shoplifting an NBA basketball under her sweater. I envisioned her going into a quick labor and having to give birth in the manger scene out front.

Now that would be a December to remember. Instagram would almost explode. As the song suggests, I’d stay by her side “until morning is nigh.” Then I’d slam a nice breakfast.

“I can’t even feel it when they do that,” the pregnant woman said as other guests stopped over to pat her beautiful belly.

Soon, she will be holding her first bubula, about as wonderful an ornament as there is. A December baby. Lots of those around. If you’re a December baby, happy birthday to you.

We had a December baby. He turns 15 this week, and it’s impossible to believe that it took this long. I will be handing him car keys and a pocket Bible soon, as he navigates L.A.’s freeways in some four-cylinder tin can. Frankly, I’d rather he just Uber. I’d rather drive him everywhere myself till he’s 18.

According to Dr. Steve, benign indifference can smooth out your days the way good exercise can, or little white pills, or a crispy cold martini.


Riding with my other daughter to the tree party, I explained that I’m planning to open a dealership that sells pre-pinged new cars, vehicles that have already been a little damaged so that the owners won’t have to stress over suffering the heartbreaking first gash.

“Like a ripped pair of jeans,” Rapunzel said.

“Exactly,” I said.

“I’m good at metaphors,” my daughter explained. “You should’ve heard my metaphor the other day.”

“What was it?”

“It was a metaphor within a metaphor,” she said. “It was double-wrapped in bacon.”

The daughter, who was driving, went on to explain how a popular driving app has improved her long commute. It was pretty clear after a few minutes that she loves Waze even more than she loves me.

“I never get bored,” she explained, “because I’m always taking a different route. And you have to really pay attention.”

The implication, clearly, was that people like me who take the exact same route to work every day aren’t making the most of their commute and are just kind of going through the motions.

Me, I prefer going through the motions. It’s how I get so much out of daily life.

The other night over beers, my internist was explaining his theory of “benign indifference” as a philosophy of life.


According to Dr. Steve, benign indifference can smooth out your days the way good exercise can, or little white pills, or a crispy cold martini.

“The thing about it,” he said, “is that it’s free.”

Since then, I’ve been giving benign indifference a try. I like it so far. Suits me, like pantaloons, or goofy Christmas neckties. I think it really sets off my eyes.

“You OK, Dad?” one of the kids asks.

“I’m just benignly indifferent,” I explained.

“Um, how is that a good thing?”

Kind of like being a pre-pinged car, I suppose.

Anyway, you’re wondering how the older daughter’s tree bash turned out, and I’m here to assure you that it was everything a party should be. When we walked in, there was an unshaven Australian in a cheesy sweater holding a beer at dangerous angles. He looked benignly indifferent about our arrival, which is what I always look for most in a holiday party.

My cool niece was there, the one who just moved from Chicago, and I met a sports fan who came out here for the World Series and hasn’t left. Back in Lincoln, Neb., her apartment awaits, growing dustier by the day.

“You can’t go now!” her friends all tell her.

She was in good cheer for she’d found a party full of interesting people who lean toward telling the truth, but don’t necessarily let it hold them back.

As if that weren’t enough, there was a charcuterie tray with meats I can’t pronounce, and cheeses from little farms all over Europe.


“We can’t go now!” I told my son.

“Why not?”

“Have you tasted that smoky brie?”

My first instinct is that my lovely and patient older daughter over-spent on this party. Such a fatherly reaction, right? Life is long, the roads can be treacherous, so save your pennies for the deductibles.

But then I noticed that she used wrapping paper as a festive tablecloth.

Nice touch. Sensible, yet lovely. A metaphor for her.

Twitter: @erskinetimes


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