Chapter 1, Two days out

“Mama, I need you.”  The call from the next room wasn’t plaintive enough to warrant dropping the dough and dashing.  She took the time to wipe her hands on her apron as she responded, “What is it?”

With a sigh of frustration and a tinge of worry, Mary answered, “I knelt down and I can’t get up.”  Mary’s mother held out her arms for support, an amused smile nudging the corner of her mouth as her daughter, heavy with child, clumsily struggled to her feet.  It was two days before a long trip and under the circumstances, Mary was fighting for control.  She tried to blink back the tears as she studied her mother’s eyes.  Today she didn’t see any of the pain she’d seen when she announced her pregnancy and the angel’s appearance, a story just too ludicrous to believe, and not the first time a young Jewish girl used the messiah routine to cover her moment of weakness.  Today she saw guarded worry.  The baby had obviously dropped lower in her womb overnight.  Her time was near as they prepared to travel 90 miles to Bethehem at the order of a political leader who had no sympathy nor made any exceptions for hardship.

Tears slipped down her cheeks.  “Mama, what am I going to do?  Joseph is so sweet to carry some of the bundles and let me ride the donkey, but he has no idea how my back hurts, and just look at me! I don’t walk anymore!  All I can do is waddle and shuffle, and I can’t even see my feet let alone reach them …. ” Mary began sobbing as she buried her head in her mother’s shoulder.

“I know, baby, I know.  It wasn’t so long ago I was carrying you.  Trust me, I know what you’re feeling.  Granted, I didn’t have the burden of a two day trip across open country.”  She sat Mary down, knelt in front of her and lifted her chin.  “We’ve almost finished with clothes and things for the baby and I think we need to bundle them for you to take just in case … ”  The reality of the possibility of stopping on the side of a dusty road to give birth caused Mary’s eyes to widen in near panic.  “Shhh, Honey, I meant for when you get there.  It’ll be ok.  There’s people all around and your father and I will be along as soon as we can.  You know he has to wait to leave and we can’t ride with you but we’ve talked with Joseph and he’ll find us after the two of you are settled.”  She was talking fast, trying to reassure her pretty little Mary as she found a clean spot on her apron to dry her eyes.

Mary took a deep breath, closed her eyes and desperately called to mind the image of the angel who told her she was chosen by the King of the universe to carry the Messiah Himself.  Surely, surely God would make sure she was going to deliver safely, that no one was going to die.  “Thank you Mama. I love you.  I’ll take Joseph his lunch.  If you don’t mind, would you help me to my feet? Again? For the 5th time this week?”

Their laughter broke the tension.  Mary planted a kiss on her mother’s cheek, picked up Joseph’s lunch and waddled toward the door, glancing over her shoulder from the doorway in time to see Mama stifle a chuckle and wink in fun.  What a mom.  Mary flashed back to the first weeks following the revelation of the angel, how her mother didn’t believer her, how the neighbors avoided them, the threat of being sent away or worse, stoned according to law before Joseph had his own dream and came to her rescue.  Mama still doubted but as time went on, as they talked, she finally came around to at least forgiving her if she didn’t wholly belive her.  Today the young girl, the apple of Mama’s eye, felt acceptance and more love than she had dared hope for.

She smiled and waved.  “I’ll be back soon, Mama. Thanks.”

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