News, Stories

EASTER BY JANE COTTLE

THIS IS THE WINNING ENTRY IN OUR EASTER COMPETITION

A patch of sunlight fell across the form that Essie was filling in, highlighting the section that said forename.  It was always the same that pang of anger mixed with guilt when she had to write her full name.  Easter Faith Montgomery, not only a mouthful to say but it raised questions.

‘Is it a spelling mistake?’

At least at school she had classmates whose parents had chosen individual spellings for names because it was cool. Names like Danii and Amii.  Cool girls with cool parents who wanted their children to stand out.  Her name was not cool and her parents certainly weren’t cool.  In fact they were the opposite of cool if there was such a thing but they stood out in a way that made Essie cringe with embarrassment. 

When she started primary school she had decided that she would be called Esther and soon became Essie for short.  Even her mum and dad called her Essie now most of the time.

Soon she would be an adult and it wouldn’t matter. It was just on her birth certificate. She would be starting Uni in a few months and she could call herself whatever she wanted and hopefully no one would ask her why she was called Easter, except maybe on her birthday.

Only ten days now and she would be eighteen. The patch of sunlight made her look out of the window.  The magnolia tree in next door’s garden was in full bloom, enormous creamy petals tinged with pink.  It looked magnificent this year.  It seemed such a shame that the blooms lasted such a short time, the April wind and rain knocking them to the ground like little boats with pink painted hulls. The adverts on the TV were gearing up with chocolate eggs and bunnies and spring lamb dinners.  Families making plans for gardening and decorating and spring cleaning.  Not her family though.  They would be going to church as usual and thanking the Lord for the blessing that is their daughter.

Her family went to church a lot.  Twice on Sundays, morning and evening not including the Sunday school class that she taught in the afternoon.  Then in the week there were Bible study meetings, men’s meetings for her dad and women’s meetings for her mum and youth group for her. Sometimes they had special rallies or meetings on Saturdays too.  Essie would moan about the Saturday meetings when she wanted to go out with her friends or do something different.

‘Why do we have to go mum?’

Her mother always had an answer to make her feel guilty, telling her that she should count her blessings.

‘The devil makes work for idle hands.’

She found it difficult explaining to her school friends why she couldn’t go out with them.  She avoided chatter about Sundays.  In her house there was no TV, no homework and no house work on a Sunday. Her mother would look at her neighbour’s washing flapping on the line and say it was a terrible thing, having to wash on a Sunday and she would pray for her.  Essie had got used to it though and she wondered what she would do when she left home for Uni.  Would she break out and try something else or would she stick to the security of the local church and the Christian Union?

She smiled when she imagined the consternation her birth must have caused.  She had heard the story many times.  Her parents were at the Easter Sunday morning service when part way through her mother went into labour.  She tried to keep it quiet but was unable to and the minister had to stop half way through the sermon.  The church was a small wooden hall – it still is – and when the ambulance arrived the congregation had to stand outside in the car park to give them room. After she was born her dad had to get a taxi home and he was too late for the evening service, probably the only time in his life he had missed.

Easter.  A time of rebirth and renewal, a time of resurrection. She was the saviour baby. The blessing from God to show that her parents were forgiven.

There were pictures in the sitting room of her older sister Eve.  The sister she never met.  The sister she replaced.

Eve had died before she was born.  A cot death at just six months old.  Her mother had never forgiven herself and she was sure that it was God’s punishment for her sins.  Essie could not imagine her parents sinning but they had and she had heard them repent for it many times.  God loves a sinner who repents.

Her parents had convinced everyone that Eve had been born prematurely when she arrived so soon after they were married. Luckily she was a small baby, a honeymoon baby they said, a blessing on the couple.  However after her sudden death there was a post mortem and the truth about her conception came out.  The kind words of condolence withered into accusations. They had sinned and had been punished.  Ten barren years followed before they were forgiven and were blessed again with a child. They were rewarded for their faith with a rebirth.

She did not feel like a saviour.  She was just an ordinary girl with a name laden with emotional significance. Soon she would be able to move on from her parent’s story and write a story of her own.  She would go to Uni and have a career.  She wouldn’t be a housewife like her mum. She might marry or she might not.  Easter 2019 was full of opportunity and she was bursting into life just like the buds on the trees.  All she had to do now was finish filling in this form and then work at getting those A level grades.

CONGRATULATIONS JANE COTTLE

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