Saturday, November 22, 2014

indulge him a bit~~ TOMAS shares an Old Original Hanukah Tale.. 11/22/14

The life-eater, Tomas, also known as Jonathon, sits with some surviving children, under a hedgerow, snug in a burrow once belonging to a long gone ground squirrel. Although it is roughly the time of year we call February in our world, a soft snowfall puts him in mind of another place and another time. Do these strange, foreign children understand him? Not every word. Earthly speech is so new to them. But they all absorb the heart of it.

Tomas, also known as Jonathon speaks, as he sits by a tiny fire (basically a collection of embers) with the children and their 'parents.' He tells them a tale originally created for two young ones in London, three hundred and fifty years ago, just prior to his crossing , hidden in a chest, deep in the hold of The Good Ship Welcome.

Jews had just been allowed back into the land, after a centuries long absence going back to The Crusades. But their numbers were small and winters were cold. So he came into a nursery one night, rather like Peter Pan, though that miraculous creature had not yet been revealed.

And Jonathon said ~

One child, a boy, was still awake. And by the low orange glow in the grate, he saw the long, heavy draperies billow into the room, as the being known as Jonathon sublimated through the tall, palladian window, coming to rest upon the thick 'Turkey' carpet.

Sitting upright, the young lad, in a quiet voice, asked, "What manner of genii are you!?"

I said. " No manner, boy. I hail from another part of God's enchanted wood." Perhaps my referencing the Devine soothed him. For he hugged his knees, waiting for me to go on. 

I knew what night this was. It was The Season of The Rededication, the First Night of Hanukah, which is merely the Hebrew word for that event. And I knew how it felt being a stranger in a strange land. Perhaps they did not celebrate at all, as his father was busy setting up the basics of a community. Small holidays, beloved by children are easy to forget.

"Know ye this night, boy?" I said. ... He nodded.... "Then tell me."..... In a child's voice he answered, "This is First Light, the first night of Hanukah," and he sighed. Obviously the occasion had not come up to his standards.....

Then the other young one, little brother to the first, woke too and he moaned, frightened by an unexpected personage (me) in their midst. His brother said, "No, Jacob. Don't be afraid. Come to me."... The boy, little more than a toddler, quickly padded over to his brother's bed and jumped in, giving me an exceptionally wide berth as he zipped by. They huddled under the covers. I heard the big one whisper something... "He's like a genii, but not a genii," he said.... The little one said, "Did he give you any presents?"... His brother shook his head and whispered, "No, be quiet. Let him talk. I think he wants to talk."

So I went on.... "I come to you from far away."... "Amsterdam?" said the big one..... "No," I answered,"Much farther than that."... "Where?" asked the little brother.... "From far beyond the great River Sambation, a magical stream, quite passable all days but the Sabbath, when it flows with a frothy torrent none can withstand. For on that day, all boatmen must rest. And even the fish lay quiet with their fishlings in snug, little riverbank caves, listening to fishy prayers.

"What's on the other side?" whispered the big one...... "Mountains, boy, mountains. The highest of which is Har (Hebrew for height, or mountain) Hanukiah, the Mountain of Hanukah."..... "They have a mountain for it?" asked the little brother..... I nodded... "A tall, snowy peak. Unicorns nest there. And right by the summit is the House of Papa Mattathias, the steadfast priest who refused to forget The Lord in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. Do you know these names?" I asked... They nodded, for theirs was a home well steeped in Scripture.

"What's the house like?" said the big one... "Warm and tight, with strong, stone walls the color of doves. And bright, little windows looking out upon the cool, green valley below. And think not that Papa Mattathias lives all alone, for he does not. Two and twenty cherubs are always with him. One for each letter of The Holy Script. They help him in his work and he takes care of them. Every morning he asks. 'How goes it in the world?' and the cherubim fly off upon beautiful unicorns to find out. But do not look for them. For no mortal can see them pass. In that way, Papa Mattathias learns. 

"What does he do, up on the mountain, all day long?" queried the little one, who seemed quite concerned by it all.... "He fashions things for those in need. Blankets for the poor and plows for farmers. Prayer books for the faithful and parchment for scribes. But he never forgets the children. And every year, throughout The Feast of The Rededication, he sends them cheer in many ways."

"You mean he remembers us? He has something for us? Me and my brother, I mean"

I nodded... "Oh yes. He remembers you. And according to the cherubim, you've been very, very good."

"Are you a cherub?" asked the big one.

What could I say? I'd Hanukahed myself into a corner. So I said, "Yes."...... They inhaled in expectation. Then the little one said."What?"..... "What do you mean 'What?'" I asked....."What did he send us? What does Papa Mattathias have for us?"

Thinking fast, I reached into my waistband and pulled out my purse, just a soft, suede, pouch really, tied to my belt with a braided cord, but filled with golden ducats from far off Venice. Vampires favor Venetian coinage. Don't ask me why. There were eight of them, large and bright and yellow. A fortune in that land..... "He sent these for you," I said, "to buy playthings and sweetmeats and whistles and kites."

How delighted they were. I had to quiet them lest they giggled too loud. Then I put the heavy coins back into the purse, pulled it closed and hung it from a bedpost where they'd find it in the morning.

After, I regaled them with tales of pirates and mermaids in the warm waters of southern seas, til they drifted off to sleep. 

When they awoke, I was gone. The eldest looked about in a panic, fearing it was all a dream. But the soft suede pouch was still there. 

Needless to say, Hanukah was very good that year. They bought many things and played dreydel (spinning top game) for the finest currants and almonds from the finest costermonger (like a grocer) in all of London.

Did their parents believe them? I suppose they did. Miracles sometimes happen. What else could they think? The children told their friends and the grown-ups told their neighbors, til everyone knew the tale. And if parents had to take on the role of Papa Mattathias and his cherubs, so be it. Truth comes in many boxes.

On other nights, during The Feast of Christmas, I made similar visits and told similar tales to other children.

You see, the details might differ, but the story stays the same.

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