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Mary's Lullaby

I have no affinity for sappy extra-biblical Christmas songs that portray baby Jesus in pastels through soft camera lenses. I put those songs in the same category as 99 Cents Stores, teacher’s pins, Christmas lawn inflations, Macdonald’s hamburgers, Hallmark’s religious cards, pink stucco, and baby shower games. I can hardly sing a line of some such songs without whispering some snide remark as a tag-line to the person next to me.

“The Night is dark, with snow descending,
Bells gaily chime a festal song!”
You must mean cowbells. 
And what the heck is a festal?
“His Mother bending over him smiles
Upon his face sublime.”
Until it was burping time 
and then he spit up quite a bit,
 and it wasn’t sublime
“No warm, white covering in the manger
To keep the Babe from bitter cold;”
What is this? Siberia? 
They didn’t have a cloak?! 
What about the swaddling clothes? 
“Only cobwebs for the stranger
From rafter high they hang gray and old.”
Oh, I see. 
They wrapped the baby in cobwebs. 
Good thinking.
“He on the fragrant hay is sleeping,
Warmed by the breath of friendly cows;”
AH! Putrid!
“The oxen gentle watch are keeping
Around the little Child divine.”
And fourteen year old Mary is cool with these two-ton beasts crowded around her son, 
who’s lying where they normally eat lunch!

A Frenchman wrote that song. It’s called “Noel.” I think it should be called “Murder in Bethlehem Stable.” Oh dear. I get myself into quite a bit of trouble on Wednesday nights during choir rehearsals. Kathy Little tries to keep Kristy Cowell and me in check, but we’re as obedient as fourteen-year-olds. At least we know not to let cows near babies.

We doodle and whisper and giggle, then put on our straight faces for the next riveting song! Oh my! What will happen to poor baby Jesus next? I leave you to your own commentary.

"Amid the roses Mary sits and rocks her Jesus child,
While amid the treetops sighs the breeze so warm and mild.
And soft sweetly sings a bird upon the bough;
Ah baby, dear one, slumber now.
Happy is Thy laughter;
Holy is Thy silent rest,
Lay Thy head in slumber fondly on Thy Mother’s breast.
Ah baby, dear one, slumber now."

Aside from the dizzy feeling I get when I read these words, the melody is very soothing. It makes me think of uncharted waters like a construction worker considering biochemistry. There is a field of study in which I’m not well versed, nor am I accustomed to think it valuable, but I am wrong here. The carpenter shouldn’t think less of the biochemists because some biochemists choose their jobs and others are thrown into the mess without knowing the difference between an ectoplasm and a mitochondria. Nor should the carpenter think less of his biochemist friend because the carpenter can readily point at the fruits of his labor while the biochemist only hopes that his efforts will benefit the world someday. I am speaking of motherhood.

I know nothing of cradling a newborn, but the whole ordeal looks as delicate as catching soap bubbles on the tip of your finger. I’m reminded of how my little sister and her friend killed my brother’s hamster by squeezing it too tight. Oh dear. 

Their honeydew melon skin is transparent, their sleeping eyes look like brush strokes from a Japanese brush, their little mouths make their cheeks ripple like drops in a bucket of water. Such tiny things: one moment their inside, the next moment their out. There you go. Here’s your baby. Sustain it in this world of genocide, porno conventions, ego-trips, materialism, and broken hearts. Fear, hate, pain, and uncertainty: they will know all these soon. But until then… 

Before then… 

Ah baby, dear one, slumber now.


Kristy said…
What are you talking about? I let the cows in to hang out by Micah's crib whenever the heater's not working. Is that not a good idea or something? Also, I let the cobwebs hang down (gray and old) around him. Their grimy tentacles stroking his cheeks is very soothing to him. You should have a baby soon. Then you'll know that all these things are wise.

But in all seriousness...the last part of your post....those are the things that scare me to death, the things that made me think seriously, for a while, of not having children at all, the things that made me cry when I was pregnant and wonder what business I had doing this, subjecting another person to such terrible possibilities. I wish babies were born with shells of kryptonite around their hearts and souls.

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