Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)
TITLE: Twice Given, Twice Returned
By Marlene Bonney
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Another blinding cramp caused her to grip her daughter’s little hand to keep from crying out.
“Quickly, child! The birthing stool!”
“Where, Mama, where?”
“Hidden under the wall bench. You must pry the base loose first.”
Seven-year-old Miriam briskly obeyed, alarmed at her mother’s muffled cries . . .
Two months later, Miriam was washing her baby brother’s clothing in the river. Spreading the cloths over a tree branch to dry, she peeked through the tall reeds to watch the princess and her handmaidens approach the opposite bank.
The princess was crying again. Miriam wondered how anyone with so much could be so unhappy. The handmaidens were trying to comfort her and, their attention diverted, Miriam chose the opportunity to creep closer.
“Dear Hatshepsut, don’t fret! You will have a healthy son, just wait and see! If anyone deserves a child, it is you! We will ask the gods to grant you a man-child to replace the daughter you lost.”
Miriam smiled softly as she thought of her entrancing baby brother. She knew her mother would be inconsolable if her baby brother died, a strong possibility. At least a baby boy belonging to this princess would not be a Hebrew baby, doomed to drown in this very river by the Pharaoh’s edict. Spurred by these thoughts, she quickly retrieved the laundry to scurry home. Even now, the guards might be scouring the village for newborns!
Jochebed was preparing her baby son for his nap, wrapping him snugly into the cleverly concealed bench drawer. Unlike his older brother, Aaron, who was sensitive to the slightest noise, this baby was unusually quiet. It was getting harder to muffle his occasional sobs, however, and he was outgrowing the hide-a-way. Miriam watched the furrows on her mother’s brow deepen while she patted her brother to sleep.
“Mama, I saw the princess and her ladies at the river today,” she babbled, hoping to distract her mother’s thoughts.
Alarmed, Jochebed asked, “You weren’t seen with your brother’s swaddling!”
“They were busy comforting the princess.” Miriam repeated their conversation. As Jochebed prepared the evening meal for her family, she pondered an idea.
“I can’t do it. I love him too much. It will tear my heart out.”
Regardless, Jochebed and Amram both felt God’s hand upon their youngest child, and His guidance as they hatched a bold plan to preserve his life.
Mother and daughter worked on the dried stems of bulrushes, kept hanging from the rafters, to make the boat. Using slime and pitch, they formed them into a large sturdy basket that would not leak. The drying and expanding process took days, but finally, it was ready.
Jochebed nursed her baby, donned him in fresh cloths, and covered him in the finely woven homespun blanket that was warm as it was light. She and Miriam stealthily walked to the river in the dewy grass, the gently rocking basket between them, lulling the baby to sleep. With kisses damp upon his brow, his mother waded out into the Nile River and placed the basket tenderly into the rushes so that they canopied over it, an airy bonnet of protection.
Miriam remained after her mother left, following the lazy floating basket until she saw the royal entourage forming at the bank a few feet away. Suddenly, the baby began great sobbing gulps of wailing that Miriam could envision awakening the entire palace. Hatshepsut ordered her slave girl to retrieve the basket from the river. With awed tenderness, the princess picked up the squalling infant who immediately quieted with her loving touch.
“Look, Shaba, a Hebrew baby—see the homespun gray blanket with the tell-tale design! Why, it is a male child! Oh, we must save him! He is mine. I will call him Moses, because I drew him from the water.”
Miriam, standing close by, eagerly approached.
“Do you have anyone to nurse the infant? Because I know a lady.”
“Yes, child, yes! Bring her now!”
Dawning enlightenment beaming on her face, the princess murmured,
“And I will pay her to care for OUR child.”
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