I can see out of the corner of my eye, more mothers coming our way. They are peeking out of their doors. Their children stick their little heads out from behind their mothers’ skirts. Jesus is blessing children. They want their children blessed too.
I am standing behind my mother. She holds the baby, Benjamin, who cries. He always cries and she is worried. She wanted to take him to see the one everyone is talking about—Jesus, the Messiah, the Great Physician.
Now we are standing behind the market place. The noise and hubbub has died down. People are going home to sleep during the hottest part of the day. My mother does not wait.
Martha, wife of David bar Simon, is coming behind us. Her three little boys are trailing after her, their eyes wide and expectant. We all have the same idea.
I hold tightly to my mother’s skirt. She lingers for a moment, watching the one they call Jesus. He looks tired, sitting beneath the olive tree. His disciples are clustered around him. Some are eating a small midday meal, and others are talking quietly amongst themselves. Their eyes dart over to the figure of Jesus, resting against the olive tree. My stomach is in a big knot. Suppose Jesus is too tired to look at my brother? Suppose we must just go back home? My father’s temper is short. He doesn’t like my brother.
My mother takes a deep breath and goes towards the cluster of men around the olive tree. The disciples look up. One slowly pulls himself to his feet and comes over to us. His face is deeply tanned. His eyes scan over us and rest on Martha, still hustling her boys along. He is not happy, and I am scared.
“The master is too tired,” he says roughly. “Take your children away. He has no time for children.”
I begin to cry. I always do when I want so badly for something to go right and it turns wrong. My mother catches her breath and clutches my brother closer to her chest. “Please…”
The disciple shakes his head and turns away.
Martha is right behind us. Her face crumples and she pulls her little boys behind her voluminous skirts. We have to go. It is over and we cannot see Jesus. The Messiah. The Great Physician.
My mother spins around. Jesus is getting up. I look up at mother and there is hope in her eyes.
“Let the children come to me.” Jesus looks at his disciples. I can see his eyes. They look sad that his disciples sent us away. “How could you send them away…?”
He is right in front of us. My mother hands him Benjamin. He holds my baby brother tenderly. Benjamin does not cry, not like when my father holds him. He does not make a sound. I hold my breath. Will Jesus bless him even if he cries?
Martha is right next to us. Her little boys cluster around Jesus’ knees. It is as if they feel safe close to him. I cannot help myself. My legs are moving. I tell them to stay right behind my mother, but they take me closer to Jesus. I want to see his face more clearly. I want him to touch me too.
He kneels down, his hands resting on the little boys’ heads. He is talking to them.
Jesus hands Benjamin back to my mother. He strokes the baby’s head one last time. I think he has not seen me. I start edging back behind my mother. He has more children coming. Perhaps I am too old. I am almost twelve. I am almost a woman. But, still, I wanted him to touch me.
My mother is moving slowly away, giving room for more children to get closer to him. Benjamin is quiet. He is not fussing or whimpering.
I take a step backwards, following my mother. Jesus looks up. His eyes catch mine. He smiles and his hand reaches out. I take a step forward and His hand rests on my head for a moment. I see his eyes. They are brown like mine. They smile at me and I smile back.