Sunday, February 04, 2007
A Catholic superstition
There is a window halfway up the staircase of my parents house. There, the glass swirls around itself in a thick and crazy dance. You cannot see out and you cannot see in through it but as a young child when I climbed the stairs, a plaster Sacred Heart reached out wide to me from that windowsill, his heart aflame, ready to embrace. So familiar was he, burning for us all, that I forgot him quite; but one day when I was total grown, I glanced across and noticed that although his heart still flared, the plastered crimson of his cloak and the chestnut of his hair had faded back to white. Undeterred by age though, he reached out still for the souls that climbed the stairs. Then horror, my sightless mother, dusting, knocked him off his perch. His arm fell off, his holy head rolled far and snap - his body broke in two. A second suffering for this ersatz Christ. Guilty catholic woman, tearstreaked at the demise of her companion through 50 and more years, gently placed his body in a box and bag-wrapped it. An Asda shroud. Accomplice father dug a garden hole, said a quiet prayer and buried quick her shame. Now a new, most sacred heart stands sentry on the sill and blesses those who slide by on their aged way up and down the staircase rails. I do not like this newcomer to the family home. I think his cloak too bright, his head too big, his heart too tame a flame contains. While underneath the clay soil where tortuous rose roots grow, the broken saviour burns on and waits for resurrection day. My mother confesses to me later: "I think there may be someone by the bushes too. I can't remember who."