Saturday, February 24, 2024

Maternal Love


Maternal Love

As a pastor, my duties vary from the pleasant to the less so. I gladly serve on our congregation’s world relief committee, and our recent endeavour had yielded remarkable results surpassing even our most optimistic expectations. The formidable Mrs. Evers, the president, had invited us to her opulent home for a time of celebration, coffee, and cake. 

I made my way there with lead in my shoes. It wasn't the prospect of coffee and cake that troubled me; in fact, I quite enjoy both. Rather, it was the company of Mrs. Evers herself that gave me pause. There was just something about her. Her demeanor. Her pridefulness. And perhaps my dislike of her was exacerbated by her rouge-laden lips, which seemed to curl into a perpetual sneer.

Despite my misgivings, social decorum demanded my presence at her gathering. The committee members, along with a handful of acquaintances and relatives, were gathered at Mrs. Evers' home. After all, a cloud of witnesses was essential on such occasions. As I stood in the foyer I heard Mrs. Evers' loud voice as she spoke about her cherished dog, Gaston, her new car, and her upcoming vacation. On and on she went.

Among the guests was an equally loud cousin named Louise, whose name, much to my chagrin, unfailingly evoked a familiar verse in my mind. Nevertheless, I was determined to endure the reception with as much grace as I could muster. Mrs. Evers greeted me with effusive enthusiasm, expressing her appreciation for my presence in particular and extolling the virtues of pastors in general.

Conversation flowed, eventually settling on the topic of domestic staff. Louise, perpetually triggering that verse in my mind, shared an anecdote about Mrs. Martens and her household staff, prompting Mrs. Evers to tell the audience about her housemaid. She described her as being a rather dim-witted country girl: efficient, but lacking brains. Everyone laughed at Mrs. Evers’ assessment of the girl.

Coffee and pastries were served. The pastries were those dreadful cream puffs, which I dislike.

However, the focal point of the evening arrived when Mrs. Evers paraded her three-year-old daughter, Anneke, before the guests. The salon doors opened, and the “maid-with-no-brains” let the child in. She, herself, did not enter the salon but stood outside the doors hidden by shadows.

Anneke, with her angelic countenance and infectious joy, captivated all present. She had clear blue eyes under dancing golden curls. When she smiled at you, it was as if a beam of sunlight shone on you. Seldom had I seen such a beautiful child. Her laughter, akin to the tinkling of bells, imbued the room with a sense of innocence and purity. Not at all shy, she made her way around the room, shaking hands and charming all the guests. They were smitten. How could you not be! 

But then, suddenly, all the magic was sucked out of the room. Anneke was allowed to take a cream puff; however, unfortunately, she dropped the plate which clattered to the ground. In her panic, she picked up the pastry only to end up with whipped cream all over her little hand. She looked at the cream, and then wiped it on her dress and in her golden hair. While the gentlemen offered lighthearted comments and the ladies attempted to console her, Mrs. Evers was embarrassed and furious. Her painted lips contorted into a cruel sneer.

Anneke looked at the guests, and then at her mother. Overwhelmed by the look of anger on her mother’s face, her eyes filled with tears and she began to cry. Mrs. Evers did not move. Then Anneke, feeling lost and alone, saw the maid standing just outside the salon looking on with love and compassion. Anneke ran into her outstretch arms. The maid picked her up, entirely unconcerned about getting whipped cream on her clothes.

The familiar arms and the unpainted lips of the housemaid provided the comfort Anneke so desperately needed. As the salon doors closed behind them, it became abundantly clear: the maid may not have had any brains, but she had a heart. 


From “Moederliefde” in Peper en Zout, tr. George van Popta, 2024