Marion rose from her knees, her prayers ascending through the early morning mist. Picking her way gingerly she returned to the farmhouse with the eggs and wild herbs that she had gathered along the way.
Her son Jorge emerged from the barn carrying a pail of milk. Bette, the goat followed him, her small hooves kicking up dust as she dashed into her pen and began picking through scraps from last evening’s meal.
“I’ll take the goat’s milk,” said Marion, relieving him of the bucket and continuing into the small house. “Go wash up for breakfast,” she called over her shoulder.
Cold ham accompanied the eggs, cooked over the fire pit in a tar covered basket.
“Merciful Lord, you know the prayers of a mother’s heart. Keep my Jorge safe tonight.”
Jorge was silent as he ate his breakfast. Marion sought the words to ask.
“Will you be home for dinner son?”
“Mother, you know it’s Sonnenwendt eve. Why do you ask when you know the answer?”
Marion bit her tongue. “It is also St. John’s Day eve,” she wanted to say.
If only Hanno were here. He had known how to deal with the boy. Now that there was no father in the home, Jorge was difficult to understand at times.
After breakfast Jorge chopped and stacked firewood while Marion busied herself about the housework continuing to pray.
Late in the afternoon the young people began gathering in the woods, preparing for the night’s revelry. Marion prepared by opening her Bible.
Hilda, her closest neighbor dropped by.
“Every year Marion; you know it happens the same every year. Nothing we didn’t do – just some fun before hay-making season. My Heidi, and Jorge – they’ll be fine.”
The acrid smell of burning wood accompanied the laughing and shouting of the young people. Before long, the bonfire on the outskirts of the little town could be seen by all as sparks rose and were caught on the breeze. As the laughter grew louder and wilder, Marion knew that the contest would soon begin.
Jorge would not be home before dawn. It was almost midnight when Marion opened her eyes, having fallen asleep in a chair. It was time to go to bed.
She was washing her face when loud knocking startled and frightened her. Pushing the water from her face with her hands she raced to open the door.
Hilda looked both disheveled and excited. She almost fell inside the door. Marion managed to help her to a chair. “Hilda, let me get you some water, then please tell me what happened.”
“Heidi…Heidi…,” her neighbor gasped, seemingly unable to say any more.
“Heidi? Has something happened to Heidi?” Marion wondered what she should do.
Hilda gulped the water and took a couple of deep breaths. Even thought it was June, the weather was unusually warm for Nuremburg. Perhaps some of the young people, including Heidi, had passed out or had been hurt by the bonfire. This had been Marion’s fear for her own son.
“Oh no, not Heidi. It’s what Heidi saw – what they all saw.” Marion turned pale and felt an icy chill run up her spine. Was it Jorge after all? Yet, Hilda had said nothing about him.
“As the bonfire jumping began, apparently all seemed well. Then, suddenly, a single bright flare leaped up higher, and the children said it was as though an evil wind had driven it. They even thought they heard a laugh that was unearthly sounding, almost as if a witch was among them.”
“Hilda, was anyone hurt?”
“Marion, it was Jorge.” There it was. Marion almost fainted. “Lord, no, please, no!”
“No Marion, I mean, Jorge was jumping the fire as the flare came up, but he was un-heart. Marion, he should have been burned, consumed even, yet he was unscathed.”
Marion was breathless as she awaited the rest of the story.
“What the children said they saw, what amazed them so much…”
At that moment Jorge himself burst through the door. His mother had never seen his face shine so radiantly, as though…
Jorge strode across the floor and took his mother into his arms.
Rapidly he related the same story.
“As the flames reached up to seize me…Mother…I was sure I was dead. Yet…Mother...I know you prayed...I saw Him! I saw the Lord! He was all in white. He drew me from the flames. We all saw Him Mother. It was…amazing!”
“Amazing indeed, Lord. Thank You!”
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