Picture, if you will, an outdoor café on a quiet street in the early morning. Three friends sit around a small table enjoying coffee, croissants, and conversation. Mozart symphonies play and sparrows hop around, collecting fallen crumbs. It is in such an atmosphere where we, The Ancient One, Michael, and I, find ourselves. Of course, where we are, there are no cafes and the music of angels replaces Mozart’s.
Like movements in a sonata, our conversation moves to serious tones.
“You know she’s going to comply with her young mother’s words, believing that only submission will achieve longed-for connection.” Michael’s voice falls flat.
The Ancient One nods, “Yes, I know.” His voice drifts through the air like the deep notes of a cello. The loss weighs heavy.
Michael’s voice rises in frustration. “An infant in need of attachment, who speaks the language of touch. A young mother, unaware of consequences, desiring to raise her daughter well-disciplined, acts from fears that holding the infant will spoil her. So the infant is left wanting.” His words resonate with sadness. “And the infant will trade her voice for the approval of her mother. “
The Ancient One stands and begins pacing. “A master manipulator.” His voice crescendos, “The deceiver weaves a web of confusion, using people’s needs and desires against them.” He stops and looks at Michael. “And the words,” he pauses. “If humanity only understood the power unleashed in what seem like benign words.” He begins pacing again. “The deceiver will use the mother’s words, distort the message to the infant, and the tender-hearted child will believe that silence and compliance are the only way to love and belonging.” He sits with a thump.
Years earlier the town council purchased the old country church. With moderate renovations, they converted it into the town hall. Five wooden steps led up to the bright red door, a sharp contrast to the pale green building. The small boy spotted the familiar woman with salt-and-pepper hair. She bent down in one of the flower beds beside the steps.
“There’s Grammie,” the small boy exclaimed. “Can I go see her?”
Not waiting for a reply, the small boy pulled the door handle, pushed hard, and dashed out. “Grammie,” he exclaimed, running. The grandmother turned; arms open. The small boy slammed into her. Teetering, she caught herself.
“Whoa there, cowboy, you’re about to knock me over.” She swallowed the small boy in her big hug. The sun warmed the morning air.
“I’ve missed you so much,” the small boy lamented, tightening his arms around her neck.
“Missed me?” his grandmother smiled. She pulled back and looked him in the eye. “You just saw me yesterday.”
The small boy took his grandmother’s face in his small hands. “But yesterday was so long ago,” he expression serious, “I really missed you.” He kissed her cheek.
A cool breeze brought a song sparrow who landed on the edge of a birdbath. The tiny bird shared its cheery tune. The small boy and his grandmother held each other’s eyes for a moment. The grandmother grinned and winked at the small boy.
“Well, then,” she said, releasing her embrace, “stay here with me. You can help me capture the bad guys who are invading the gardens.” The small boy’s face broke into a smile.
“Oh, yes. I’m good at catching bad guys.” his eyes danced as he began his hunt.
Infant and diaper bag in hand, with the blue blanket draped over her shoulder, the young mother walked to where the small boy worked alongside his grandmother. “Let’s go inside,” she said to the small boy. The small boy stopped, a blade of grass in hand, and looked at his mother. He held his breath, not wanting to go indoors yet.
The sun shone through the crack between the drapes in the small bedroom and woke the young mother. Yawning, she noticed the dent in the pillow beside her and remembered the quiet “I’m off to work” spoken while the room was still dark. She glanced at the clock. “I better get up and get going,” she muttered to herself. I don’t have a lot of time before VBS starts.
Vroom sounds came from the small boy’s bedroom. She tip-toed down the hall to the bathroom. Back in her room, she eyed the clothes in her closet. What can I wear? She asked wanting to look good and comfortable. Choosing a pair of brown hot pants, she topped off the outfit with a pink-striped, short-sleeve knit shirt. Her long, brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, she applied a quick layer of mascara. A final look in the mirror, a nod of approval, and she went to attend to the children.
“Let’s go for a drive,” the small boy said. He stood beside the crib weaving a purple racecar in and out of the slats. “Here, you can use this one.” He handed the infant a red station wagon.
The infant, who sat next to a balled-up blue blanket, took it, and promptly put it in her mouth. “No, baby. Yuck,” he reached in and pulled her hand from her mouth. “Like this.” He helped her put the car on the mattress and moved her hand. “Vroom. See.” He looked up as the young mother entered the room.
We stood face-to-face, me in my Princess Diana-like white lace gown, him in his light gray tuxedo, pink bowtie at his neck. Our eyes locked; three hundred witnesses faded and all I saw was him. The time had come for my promise. Six months earlier I made a vow to him, wrote it in my journal, and now I was to speak it aloud.
Emotion collected in my throat, lifted to my eyes, and spilled down my face. “From this day forward…” I promised, “I will love you.” Young and naïve I didn’t really understand what that meant, and yet I was determined to live it out.
The sun rose over the calm sea as the boat drifted toward the shore. Peter jumped out with the tie-rope in hand and secured it. Tired and worn from the night-long battle with a storm the rest of them got out of the boat and followed him to the bank. Their legs dragged, sloshing the water.
Their weariness was abruptly interrupted by a piercing shriek. A madman from the nearby tombs ran screaming and flailing his arms towards them. As he rushed at them they slowly backed away. All but One, who took a few more steps and stopped, waiting.