A Story from the Imagination
Born on a cold night in Bethlehem, the first cries were heard only by his mother. There was not enough money for a midwife, and the women were reluctant to come to that part of town anyway.
He was his mother’s first child, and it was clear she was too young to have a husband. Although her family had nothing of which to be proud, they were too proud to acknowledge her plight and had pretty much abandoned her to her own devices, and now that he was here, things would just get worse. No money, no job, no home. This borrowed room on a winter night, some raggedy clothing from her childhood, and a hungry baby were the only trappings of Sheerah’s pitiful existence.
She had learned to wash clothes and utensils, and even though she hated it, she could clean a house when she had too. Martha had decided she could use the girl as a housemaid and the room and a little food would be payment enough for long days of work. Caring for the new baby would detract from her work time, but then Martha really didn’t mind working her early and late to make up the lost time.
Martha’s husband Ezra was a stonemason. He was big and strong. His hands were rough and his temper short. Ezra was known around Bethlehem for his outbursts of anger toward anything and anyone who crossed him.
It wasn’t long before Sheerah’s baby was on his list. “That boy’s too noisy,” he’d shout whenever Aeneas cried. “Get him quiet or get out,” was a common theme, and Sheerah worked hard at keeping little Aeneas hidden away.
Sheerah labored diligently and Martha was pleased with the skill of her cleaning and taking care of the meals. She had even learned to sew a little and was making clothes for Aeneas out of the scraps of discarded garments. Martha had come to admire her commitment to being a mother.
On the other hand, Ezra was constantly on Aeneas. By the time Aeneas had begun to walk Ezra was openly hostile toward the child. “He’s always into something,” he’d snarl, and often pushed Aeneas away when the boy crossed his path.
Soon enough Ezra decided Aeneas was big enough to work. Stacking bricks and rocks by the time he was five, and carrying mud to the roof at seven, Aeneas was growing strong of body, even if his mind was left to flounder.
Sheerah tried to teach him some things. The problem lay in the fact that she knew very little to teach. She could not read. She knew nothing about math or science. Her knowledge of history was limited to knowing her parents name and the town in which she was born. Ezra only spoke to the boy to give commands about moving faster and carrying more. Martha spent all her time with the other women in Bethlehem, and she had never cared for Aeneas anyway. He was just a distraction that kept Sheerah from working as hard as she might.
One afternoon, when Aeneas was eight years old, he and Sheerah had walked toward the heart of the small town of Bethlehem. There they saw people gathering excitedly. A caravan of foreign visitors was just arriving from Jerusalem. They were obviously not residents of Israel.
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© Weaver 2003