Memory, Misery, and The Manger

Disclaimer: As Advent advances, I feel an increasing ache that only the maggots and the manager bring. It is an ache one long-held in ransom; one born in lonely exile; one exhausted by expectation. Take care of yourself as you read this. It hurt to write, it may hurt to read.

I feel a call to set aside my keyboard; to pick up the pen; to watch the inky black pour out onto the page with each stroke; to see the paper drink the ink with thirst; to be glad to be writ upon. So are the pages of this book. So are the pages of this life.

The candle flickers to my left – illuminating the cup in which it sits. Inscribed on the inside, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” I’d rather be stabbed with a pen when it comes right down to it – I smile softly to myself. The swords that have run me through repeatedly are the ones that continued cutting long after the wielder of the weapon was weary. It was the pen that has repeatedly returned to the ruin.

The cup I sip sits to the right. A holiday cup rimmed with gold – a hand me down from a friend of my mother-in-laws. Whenever I have been given something precious – I cherish – a direct deposit into the treasury of me. I have always carefully kept the valuable.

This morning when I let the dog in, the snow whistled off the neighbors roof in the early morning light. I mused that it looked like an old man smoking. I didn’t laugh, I nearly cried. I knew old men and smoke; neither were a laughing matter.

Snow blankets the sleeping world here. The world, once so fresh-faced and full – now silent, grey, and cold. The landscape warns me of times to come – of dormancy in the days ahead where the freshness of spring, the heat of summer and the splendor of fall will fade to the quiet cold slumber of winter.

As I let in the dog, the burst of cold air, the swirl of the snow, and the residue of ruin wrap around me. My words stick in my pen, the black smudges with remembered ruin, the cold gets colder still. My mind takes me back in time, reluctantly, ruthlessly – to the wreckage. The metallic taste rises just under my tongue. It is the unmistable aftertaste of misery.

He was out to sea. We three, having been stolen from our mother, were left in another boarding home. I was the youngest – the only one who didn’t go to school. Every night, without fail, I would wet the bed. Every morning without fail, they would put me naked on a wooden stool in the bathroom with the wet sheets over my head. I learned to close my nose off from the inside and breathe only through my mouth. I was a human drying rack for my own filth.

One day I snapped. I could not. No – I would not – they’d have to catch me first. Naked, I ran around the kitchen being chased by the man of the house. He was bigger, slower, and dumber. I was smaller, faster and smarter. But since there was nowhere to go, he eventually cornered me. Trying to avoid “the treatment” got me grabbed and thrown like garbage over the balcony – into out into the snowbank – naked. The snow was crusted, cutting my hip like a serrated knife.

That Christmas as part of “the treatment,” they put this on the fridge:

“Dear Santa,

Do not come to Lori Anne.
She pees the bed.

Love,
Maxine & Junior”

He didn’t.
Christmas went downhill from here.

I have long understood the need for a Rescuer. Even as a child I watched the night sky for the brightest star to direct my crooked path. I was too clever to think St. Nick was real – too hungry to think Christ wasn’t.

He stench of urine hung heavy round His innocent head.

He lay naked and cold the manger.


He didn’t come to rescue me.
He came to replace me.

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