The warm, savory aroma of a beautiful turkey slow roasting in the oven gently coats the tiny kitchen with warmth and security … comfort food. Only, it's not a turkey, but a small, chicken in a foil pan with a few potatoes, carrots and onions adorning the sides. It sure smells like turkey. But some moms are just like that. They do what they have to do with what they have, and make magic happen every night. On top of the stove is a small worn pot half filled with a thin gravy and a few biscuits warm in a pan.
The drafty apartment is small, with just one bedroom … his. She sleeps on the sofa, where she shields her eyes from the flashing neon signs across from their fourth floor flat, with an old blanket she pulls over her head. But, tonight she is not sleeping. It happens to be Christmas night, and she's waiting up for him. The two of them share this small space, along with simple dreams, hopes, joys, sadness; all the things many mothers and sons share these days.
|Madonna by Stacey Torres|
She worries about him. Tonight he is working – volunteering, actually – at a suicide crises center, talking courage and hope into the people who sometimes call in, lost in their dark desperation … hoping to find some strength and purpose with their lives when all else has abandoned them. Her son is very good at this, apparently. Always full of hope and logic, his gentle way of accepting others and walking them through their issues comes natural to him. Her husband died a few years ago, and the two of them barely get by.
The mother didn't really want her son to go out this evening; after all, it is Christmas – and his birthday. But he explains to her that this night, more than most others, is a very crucial time for people who are lost, depressed, and suffering from ravaged hearts and souls. “They need me,” he tells her. And knowing this to be true, she resigns herself to wait up for him so they may share a simple Christmas supper together later that night.
This night is no different than any other to her. She frets and agonizes over her son constantly. You see, he is different. His tall graceful presence, with those dark eyes and skin cause him to stand apart from others in a unique unearthly way. People have taunted him, mocked and even threatened him because he was different. Because his beliefs are different, and he looks at the world and humanity differently. They assume the worst in him, and judge him without knowing him – or her. He lives in a world where he is constantly profiled by people who live in fear and ignorance. The mother fears there will be no generation in their family after him. That's just the way things are now. She hopes he will be home soon.
Many years ago on a Christmas night, the aroma of a wild foul boiling in an earthenware pot over some embers out in the courtyard is both comforting and tantalizing. There, she sits and waits as her unleavened pancakes bake on hot stones.
He is late again. Out with his friends working on his birthday. As always, she is worried about him. His work takes him to places and people she is she feels are dangerous for him. But deep in her heart she knows it's what he is meant to do. It's his life's work.
He spends day and weeks talking to people; teaching them ways to live a more fulfilling life, and giving them courage and hope when they are lost in their dark desperation. He has fed the hungry, comforted the sick, and is always accepting of others.
Her husband died a few years before their son began his work. And, now the two of them live a modest and humble life, and she trusts his judgment and decisions.
She knows, however, there is nothing she can do but support his dreams and his wishes. The long hours spent talking and sharing these hopes tells her that he is accepting of his calling and ultimate fate. All she can do is be there for him.
The son has told his mother that he has been taunted, followed, threatened and mocked by people who do not know or trust him. She frets and agonizes over her son constantly. You see, he is different. His tall graceful presence, with those dark eyes and skin cause him to stand apart from others in a unique unearthly way. Some love him and respect what he teaches them. But there are many he feels threatened by. He is judged and profiled by people who live in fear and ignorance. The mother fears there will be no generation in their family after him. That's just the way things were then. She hopes he will soon be home.
Originally published in The Courier-Times, December 2016