Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 18, 2006
Her mother wept over the creche
A secreted paper discovered decades later explained her sorrow
- Photo supplied
A treasured photo of her mother long ago surrounded by her youngsters in front of the Christmas creche evokes poignant memories in her daughter.
By ANITA ALLSOPP
Special to the WCR
"A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."
- Matthew 2:18
I seek to understand the vibrant life of both my parents hidden under their golden touch. Both loved the power, esteem, and freedom of wealth. They had the Midas touch; everything they touched turned to gold.
They carried a secret, however, one that I intuited. There was a story behind the gold and glitter that I longed to hear and never heard. (A golden touch devoid of warmth and tenderness leaves flesh cold and still, the fate of King Midas' daughter.)
The story I longed to hear would need living flesh, and would not be heard until the spell was broken. In fairy tales this spell is often broken with a kiss, symbol of everlasting love that has shown itself courageous in overcoming evil.
This kiss that was to be my salvation was hidden in the crŠche, the simple stable that my mother set up every Christmas. I remember it vividly because each year at this time it stood in sharp contrast to all the other holiday glitter. Speaking to a friend recently she reminded me of how my mother did this every year, leaving out the child Jesus until Christmas Eve, when the youngest of the family would carry the tiny baby figurine to its resting place in the empty trough.
The weeks before Dec. 25 held the hope of arrival of the missing child of the manger. But even more than that, my mother seemed different at this time. The bold efficiency and show with which she organized the household and the hired help was gone, replaced with a sorrow and fragility I could not comprehend. The tears streaming down her face revealed brokenness under the tapestry of gold that was our home.
A stillborn secret
After my mother's death many years ago, I would discover her secret hidden in the knots and threads, the messy underside of gold tapestry.
The secret was a tiny folded piece of paper, yellowed with age, hidden among her many photographs. Dated January 1947, it was a death certificate of a stillborn child, a boy, her firstborn, buried in European soil.
A child had lived and died in the secret of her life, hidden under flowing gowns, glamour and the best that money could buy. She and my father had tried to protect us, their children, denying it was there.
The after-shocks of war are stronger than denial; the enemy's darkness had been with us all along.
This stillborn child named Joseph, a war child, left new scars in my mother's flesh, leaving a deep wound in an already fragile woman exhausted by seven years of war, the darkened world of ash, decaying flesh, blitz bombs and barbed wire. Years of chronic psychic and physical illness were the result.
The spell is broken
She had known the deepest darkness and had tried to hide it, casting a spell on her future children. With this secret revealed the spell is broken.
Today when I set up the Christmas crŠche in my own home, I too leave out the infant child until Dec. 25. The empty space in this poor stable symbolizes my mother's missing child in the aftermath of war.
My mother has left me the precious gift, not of wealth, but of vulnerability, her body broken and blessed. Her tears, like Rachel's weeping for the children that are no more (Matthew 2:18) have been transformed by the Prince of Peace, mixed with wine, offered in a chalice of gold that no Midas can touch.