This story continues from last year’s Christmas blog. If you’ve not read it already, it might provide an enjoyable minute or two. If you did read it at the time, pop back for a second visit before you read Part 2.
Here is Part 2 of the story…
Mrs Winchester never slept like a baby normally. The doctor had described her early wakefulness in various ways, and diagnosed ‘Marriage Anxiety Syndrome’ (DSM-IV 326a) resulting in an ‘over-active sense of responsibility’. She lived with that subtle underlying anxiety of one who cares a lot for the needy – and there was no doubt that Max came into that category. She was, in her words, a light sleeper. Max, on the other hand was having the time of his life.
Having recovered a little of his decorum following his stumbling across baby Jesus and his teenage parents in the stable, he grabbed his iPad and began writing his journal. He recorded every last detail: the clothes the shepherds were wearing (‘headgear like a tea towel at home’), the state of the stable (‘warm, though smelly’) and discretely omitted Mary’s struggle with feeding Jesus for the first time (he had quietly nipped into the inn for that bit). It was only then that he realised he had a bar or two of Wifi (it was free in the inn), so promptly whizzed off an email explaining where he was and what was happening, to Mrs Winchester, who was duly dumbfounded. She phoned the Community Support Officer again to tell her she’d found Max and heard her snigger for the second time.
Max headed for a hour or two of sleep. He dreamt he heard angels singing, but was wakened finally by the revving of cars in the road below his window. Three massive blacked-out limmos were parked on the curb, complete with their minders and an escort car or two. He slipped his shoes back on and headed for the stable again, there to find a selection of eastern dignitaries gathered round the manger/crib. They were chatting quietly to Mary and Joseph as Jesus slept, and he noticed them handing the young couple some little gifts wrapped in the poshest of wrapping paper. Max took a picture with his iPad and emailed it home. “Bethlehem” he thought to himself, “will never be the same after this night, and neither will I.” He proved to be right on both counts.
It was a few days later he decided to head home. Boxing Day had come and gone, and he’d been able to sleep off some of his weariness. It was with a palpable sense of relief that he pressed the “Go Home” button on his TomTom, and waited (ages) while it planned his route through Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, into Austria and Germany and back to the Channel. Bluewater seemed a long way away.
He only got lost six times, and broke down just the once – as he was driving round the southern edge of Lake Balaton – about half way home. Most of the time he slept in the Fiesta, but occasionally he allowed himself the comparative luxury of a comfy bed in a wayside inn.
Max’s final stop was at the side of the road a few miles from his house. He pulled into a little car park on a hill overlooking a beautiful view – you know the sort. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go home, it was just that he was overwhelmed by an inexplicable desire to cry. For a few minutes he managed to contain himself, but finally he surrendered.
For the first time in thirty eight years, he sobbed and sobbed, calmed himself and sobbed some more. Wave after wave of tears engulfed him. He was shocked to find he couldn’t stop. His body ached with the emotional outburst. Somewhere within his brain he remembered something about the symptoms of PTSD, but he couldn’t care less right now. He knew something deep was happening to him and continued to cry.
When finally his tears ended he noticed the sun was setting – the huge red orb making its way inexorably towards the darkening horizon. As he sat quietly he felt a sense of peace begin to trickle under the door of his heart. Max put his head back on the headrest. All he could think of was that baby. Somehow the peace he felt was connected to the little newborn child resting innocent and contented in that grotty stable, though he found it impossible to figure out quite how. He remembered a couple of lines of a T.S.Eliot poem about Magi going to see Jesus, and how they felt. “We returned to our places, these kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation...” He would look it up when he got home. He felt like that too … no longer at ease … old dispensation. Weird. He started the engine.
Mrs Winchester was delighted to see him back. He was even quieter than normal – which is saying something. Preoccupied. Contemplative. Stronger. More relaxed in a way. Nothing seemed to matter to him in quite the same way, and despite her efforts she couldn’t get him to open up. “I’ll tell you all about it sometime, my dear,” he told her.
And one day he did.