When, having walked up from Central Station,
we reach Hope Street – that long sentence stopped
both ends with cathedrals – she protests, ‘My legs are tired!’
but, with the promise of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’,
we make it to the Unity Theatre,
the old Hope Place synagogue. She knows
the story well but watches keenly as the imp,
out smarted, stamps his foot through the earth’s crust.
Very properly reared by atheists –
free of chapel, mosque, shrine, shul and temple –
she encounters the Christmas story
at school. She speaks, knowingly, about ‘The Star’,
‘Mary’, ‘Baby Jesus’. So, though infidels,
we buy a set of nativity figures –
wooden, the size of netsuke, made
in China. Too late, we notice there is
no Joseph – or, rather, like any jobbing
repertory actor some guy is doubling
as carpenter (aka accidental
saint) and one of the shepherds, hence the halo
and the crook. She sets them out as in the play –
in which she was one of many narrators –
mother and crib at the centre, the rest
in a semi-circle facing them.
The world is full of stories, although not all
earth shattering. Some abound in common nouns.
These two are pseudonymous. She remembers
both of them equally well – the baby,
the straw spun into gold.