Who'd be a Mother? by James Archer
This monologue is a phone call from Anne, the mother of Mary, to her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, shortly after the angel has appeared to Mary. We only hear one end of the conversation, so in the gaps we have to imagine what Elizabeth is saying at the other end of the line.
Hello? Elizabeth?... It’s your cousin Anne here from Nazareth…. How are you? …. Good. It must be so tiring for you, in all this heat. …… I mean, at our age, we don’t expect……. Well, I hadn’t thought of it that way, no. Yes, a wonderful blessing, of course. ….. I didn’t mean you should complain to God about it. ….. You sound so relaxed and content. ……. And to think, he singled you out for His special attention – you must be very proud. …… No, not exactly proud – but you know what I mean. ……. Well, maybe that’s why He chose you rather than me.
…… Yes, very well thanks. Not too many aches and pains. Yes, she’s well too, but …… that’s why I wanted to talk to you. ….. Your favourite goddaughter – Elizabeth, I need some advice. ……. No, it’s not good ….. It’s a long story …… Good, I need to talk it through with someone…..
She came back from school on Thursday, and went straight up to her room without a word. I left her for a while, and then went up with a cup of tea. I knocked, but she wouldn’t open the door. I went in gently, and there she was, sitting on her bed, her eyes red with weeping. I put the cup down, sat down beside her and gave her a big hug. “What’s up?” I said, “Had a tiff with Joseph?” She sat tight for a while, then threw her arms around me, “Oh Mum!” and burst into tears. Huge great racking sobs, it must have gone on for five minutes. At last she calmed down a bit. “Have this tea before it goes cold,” I said, “and then you can tell me all about it.”
“It’s all off, Mum. It’s all off. He couldn’t trust me. I could see he wanted to, but he couldn’t, not after what I told him. I can’t blame him, but I thought …. I thought ….. I thought God would sort it all out. And I love him so much, and I need him so much, and …..” And the sobbing started again. I just had to hold her in my arms, holding her pain and her grief, waiting and wondering, what had she told him?
“It was lunchtime, and I went out for a walk in the woods. There was a man there, tall and strong. I was sure he was a good man. ‘Good morning,’ he said; I nodded in reply. ‘The greetings of God,’ he went on, ‘He is well pleased with you. Mary, the Lord is with you.’ What a strange thing to say! And how did he know my name? I stared at him, and as he smiled, I realised this was no ordinary man. I fell down at his feet in terror, but he reached out and lifted me up. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary. God sent me here with good news. You will give birth to a son, who will be called Son of the Most High; he will reign on the throne of his Father David, and his kingdom will never end. You are to call him Jesus.’ ‘How come?’ I replied, ‘I’m not even married yet!’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Most High will overshadow you, and you will conceive.’ It all sounded pretty far-fetched. Who would believe such a story? ‘Remember your cousin Elizabeth. Nothing is impossible with God.’ He looked at me in challenge. I thought of Elizabeth’s husband Zachariah – he hadn’t been able to speak for six months because he refused to believe God’s messenger. ‘OK,’ I said at last, ‘may God be with me.’ I looked again, and he’d vanished.”
She stopped and looked at me, and I realised it was the first time she had done so all through the story. Her eyes bore into my soul, looking for reassurance – would I believe her? Joseph hadn’t. Would anyone believe her?
Could I believe her? My mind was racing with what she had said. Could it be true? It wasn’t the sort of thing she could make up – not my Mary, so straight-forward and child-like – or was she? I mean, meeting up with a man in the woods in the lunch-break! Had anyone seen them together? What if …? No! The disgrace of it! She could be stoned! You could hide it for a while, but then….
She was still looking at me. I couldn’t meet her eye. I needed time to think. What could I do, Elizabeth? I put my arms around her and held her. She was calm now, as if the telling had helped her. I was like ice – not feeling anything, stunned and bewildered, not knowing what to think or say or do or feel. “Don’t tell your Dad anything for now, Mary – we need to work out what to do. Stay up here this evening, and I’ll bring your supper up for you.”
And now, three days on, and I’m still no nearer to knowing. Can I trust her? Is it true? Could it all be a bad dream? Why her? Why me? What do I tell Heli? Elizabeth, help me! What should I do? ……….. Yes ……. No ……. No …….. I suppose so …… Yes, that might be good – it would give us all some space …….. I’ll put her on the bus tomorrow ….. Thanks ….. Yes ….. You’re so much wiser than me – you might get to the bottom of it ….. Yes ….. I’ll try …… Thank you so much …….. God bless.