Walking with Mary
A narrative take on a story we all know.
LONG STRIDES MEAN SHE is angry, but I’m not sure who is to blame. She’s also scared and that one is easier. She always worries about him, especially when she hasn’t seen him in a while. I can hear her muttering under her breath. Enough is enough. He needs to come home.
News of the scribes set her off. They came down from Jerusalem to question him and all he offered were stories. When Yaqob stopped by the house and told us this, her lips grew thin and she said nothing, only started gathering up her travelling things. The basket with thick leather straps, bread, dried fruit and a large skin for water. She opened the old wooden chest – the one that Abba made for her when she was a bride – and pulled out a length of blue cloth to cover her hair. The cloth was rough and faded, but she held it gently between her finger and her thumb, then brought it to her face and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she said that I would go with her. And my brothers, too. She wanted us all with her on the road.
Of course, he’s been wild before. No, not wild. Just different and conspicuous. Unpredictable. He doesn’t read situations well. Clever as can be, but completely blind sometimes. He just couldn’t see when Abba was in a hurry, or when Immah wanted his help or his silence. He always made time for stories, even in the workshop. My favourite stories were about trees, the same trees that became the wood Abba used. Yeshua would tell us about the years of sun and rain that fattened the trunk, and what it felt like to be rooted in one place for years. He asked us to imagine the wind high in our branches and then the rain deep under our roots. That was before his travelling started.
At first, it was natural enough. We all knew that the carpenter’s life wasn’t for him. He said he was looking for a mentor, someone who would take him on. Immah thought that he’d find a rabbi, a prophet even. She liked the idea and it made sense. We thought that his stories might make people happy.
Maybe, we were wrong.
Now we’ve been walking since midday and my brothers keep pace ahead of us. I watch them talking back and forth. How do they imagine we’ll convince him to come home? Our mother says little and won’t catch my eye, just keeps on striding forth, wrapped up in her own fierce love. From time to time, she reaches out and touches my arm, and I know that she wants me there. I leave the worrying to her and focus on putting one foot in front of another.
My mother is a great one for walking. Good for the bones, she’d say, and trek us off to every festival. She loved to be among the crowds, all those people travelling together. That was the best way to do it. Safer by far and better for stories, too. My mother carried a basket full of treats and doled them out to everyone she met, sweet snacks and stories. She’d tell us about travelling to her cousin’s house when she was expecting, and travelling heavy-bellied with Abba down to Bethlehem where our brother was born, then on down the Way of the Sea into Egypt, where the tallest palm trees grew and where she ate fish made red with spices.
SOMETHING IS BEGINNING
When I was small, I longed to grow up and be able to travel far and wide as she had. I wanted to see everything, taste everything, but on our journeys to Jerusalem, my feet always got so dusty, the straps of my sandals rubbed and my throat grew dry and painful as I trotted along, trying to keep up with my brothers. So I’d stop to sort through the pebbles beside the path and Immah scolded me and told me that roads don’t walk themselves. Then Yaqob and Yosep teased and made wild faces, so Immah scolded them, too, but when Yeshua smiled, she softened and said Come on, little one. Treats ahead at the next bend in the road. Then my big brother held out his hand and I gave him my pebbles to keep in his pocket. If I was lucky, he’d lift me to his shoulders, breaking into a gallop to catch up with our mother and the other brothers and then we’d all be walking together again until the next patch of pebbles.
I am glad that our road today isn’t long. Immah couldn’t keep up this pace, and neither could I. I shift the bag on my shoulder and glance up the road to the town on the hill. We will be there before the evening meal, I am sure of it. It will be good to sit and eat with Yeshua again. I hope that we can be peaceful together, that Yeshua will listen to reason, that Immah can be calm.
Beside me, she clicks her tongue and it is then that I realise she is excited. She has hidden it well. Something is beginning and she knows it. She’s glad to be on her feet now and walking. She is finding strength as she goes, a strength beyond her fear and even her anger. I can’t imagine what words she will use when we find him. What will she say? How can she pull him away from his travelling stories? How can any of us draw him in from the road now? It is in his blood. He is his mother’s son.
A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him: ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.’ Mark 3:32 (NRSV)