The ambulance speeded to the ghetto, as she had neither car nor a panic stricken husband to drive her to the hospital. No, she was not so fortunate, or perhaps she was supremely fortunate, to have mimicked the very mother of God in her poverty. Yet Mary had Joseph, and three wise men. In this woman’s cramped and decrepit apartment, however, she had the flashing memory of the look on her heart as another man walked out of her life nine months ago, and she was honored with one blind mouse, he blind for lack of hygiene in his own sub ghetto, his universe doubly poor. She could not take the bus in her state, and she prayed that the ambulance would dare cross the invisible lines of geographical decency. And even then, an eye needed to be kept on her other two children.
Midnight approached. The doctor had an impatient look on his face. Here comes another liability! A poor mother who, because of her poverty, likely had no pre-natal care. And what will the toss of the dice reveal for this little one? Will he be destroyed by crack, or malformed by alcohol, or offset by nicotine? Broken before entry! What, moreover, would this pain upon the pain of her life do to her? This moment magnified by ripping, tearing, and bleeding, with the prospects of another soul in this dim and broken existence? And will another man find her more appealing, with yet another child? Or will the table stretch its meager morsels, for yet another mouth? But her heart is that of a mother, for this is flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood, life of her life, and she loved it—a speck of good hope for this new creation. But there is a hope greater still:
“My very being magnifies this little one,
My glory coalesce in him,
For this day a new breath is breathed--
A new passion infused.
Out of nothing made I the universe,
From the void I knit his cells,
And if foreign substances interfered—
Can they yet touch his spirit?
Broken is this child in many ways,
And life will be a trial,
But broken never his heart,
The chamber of his soul,
Which my Love enfolds!”
The Infant took his first breath with an unusual vigor, with violence for life which overtook this middle of night. Having only known the embrace of the womb, this new, cold, bright environment was a shock to his system. But something deep within him immediately kicked in, a breaking loose, a rebellion. In a reflex he will forsake the memory of the womb, and strike this new existence with the horns of a sparring ram. A Boy was born, and his breath was strong, foreshadowing his will.
Yet he had a hungry heart, which revealed itself as he grew. How he longed to be embraced in love, to be held close to his mother’s bosom with special attention. But his desire was half fulfilled, which rendered in his deepest being a profound confusion. At one moment he would be engulfed in the wonder of discovering a new thing as he crawled-- a smoking match on the floor, the fantastic strangeness of running water, or the tiny world of the ants who make a day’s meal out of a grain of sugar, dropped on the floor. But just as instantly would panic strike him, as to the very core. His mother may have passed him by quite suddenly, leaving in her wake but a cold whiff of air, her face engaged and rigid all the while. In his soul he would shudder. Is she mad at me? Is something bad happening? Am I rejected? Then he would cry, his universe upturned. She would come to him then, and hold him, and sway him, but the distant rigidity on her face, that vacant look in her eyes, would not assuage. She would hum a tune in that voice, the inner depths of which held for him unfathomable comfort, of home, of belonging; but her hug would be somewhat indirect, somewhat askew. Hence for these mixed messages, his emotions developed a type of fracture.
When he began to walk, and talk, and reason, he saw things in a clearer light. His mother was always preoccupied, in some distant manner. Even when she held him, her face betrayed an attention infinitely elsewhere. She moved as if wired, with a constant tension. His older brother and sister seemed to have taken these things for granted, becoming somewhat indifferent of her. Everyone moved, and revolved, within their own world. Sometimes there would not be enough to eat, and he observed that at these times his mother seemed ever more awkward. He had regular meals at school, though. Worst of all was the parade of boyfriends, each a tightly rung knot of apathy. Why must they be invariably bad? Why can’t at least one of them have some degree of humanity?
Once, overcoming his fear of the screaming, cursing, and fighting, he ran into his mother’s bedroom, leaving his brother and sister in their customary huddle. The man had a gun. He shot at the Boy, and the incensed mother lunged at him. The man hit her on the side of her head with the gun, and shot her twice in the chest, his face a crooked sight of malevolence. He rushed out as a neighbor, unusually heroic in a place such as this, rushed in.
The Boy’s nerves calmed later at the hospital as his mother laid mortally peaceful, having a few minutes before been given an ultimatum by the police either to press charges, or to loose her children. Then, suddenly, she began mumbling half-audible words in a deluded state. The Boy listened closely, piecing together her struggle. “No…why do you haunt me? Where were you when my father raped me? Why do you curse me to this wretched life?” She began heaving strangely, and the Boy panicked, thinking she would die. But she quieted again, now with a strange look of resolution. Something had deeply melted her, overcome her, subdued her, and she seemed to have accepted it.
On a fateful day soon following his mother gathered the children together in the poor apartment and made a speech; it was very unusual. “I have discovered God,” she said. “I have come to meet the Lord Jesus, and I promise that I will change.” His siblings had profoundly confused looks on their faces, but this irregular expression, almost reflexively, gave way to their usual countenance of resignation, and an almost unconscious indifference. Unlike the other two, it seemed, he had always longed for his mother, had never thought that she was incapable of meeting his heart’s needs. He did not fully understand what she needed to change, in the naivety of his childhood. He nevertheless took a keen interest in her new behavior, and she saw it. She likewise took a peculiar interest in him, as if realizing that in him there is yet hope for her to be the mother she should have been. The next day she took him to church.
While at church his mother seemed more proud of herself than she was attentive to the goings on. She smiled constantly, with an airy, dreamy look on her face, and she stood up tall and proud, as if aiming to be noticed. She was dressed better than he had ever seen her, and she smelled sweetly of some flowery perfume. She had bought him a second-hand suit, which he found somewhat comfortable perhaps for its past ware, although the tie was stuffy, and he fussed with it as impetuous boys tend to do. At first he was bored and restless, having not a clue as to the meaning of what painfully appeared to be the priest’s droning and the congregation’s moaning; yet these people, he noticed, were different, almost “civilized,” although he didn’t know the word—they were at least different from the people of his everyday, and strangely desirable. But when he looked up, something else happened. He noticed the stain glass windows, and the images in them. He was taken back as to a former memory, deep within. The pictures represented a world to him, a happy place, his future home almost (or past? he could not tell), a place where he nevertheless wishfully belonged. Then, strangely, his heart began to stir, and it heard a thundering voice in the sound of silence:
An instant next to an instant, my little one I see,
From first breath to childhood, but a glance to Me.
That longing in your heart, so clearly do I know,
So resplendently transparent, as it longs for Me.
Come feel My touch of joy, know your Father’s hand,
Let leap within thy chamber small,
This Infinite, this Grand.
How fragile is thy heart, My humble potter’s art,
How fitting yet your vessel be
For My magnanimity!
The Boy could not tell what happened, but his interior was suddenly enlarged. Something, someone, had made an advance toward him. Like to when he desires his mother, someone, or something, approached (or wanted?) him! But just upon realizing this peculiar thing, he also noticed an inner reflex-- “No.” It was, although he was not aware, the same reflex as at birth, when he turned away from the memory of the womb, for the sake of this newfound freedom-- life. To give in to this thing would be the death of him, of all that he knows. He only wants to be coddled for a moment, but then allowed to run free, to prance onto life; not to be engulfed, to be eaten, be it ever so splendid an overtaking. From this moment on he would begin a fantastic life of willfulness and independence, tapping, as it were, the very energy of his visitation (for could he be so infinitely willful, had he not been infinitely touched?). In his innermost being he raised a war cry: he would not be overcome!
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