Arts & Lifestyle

THE ALABASTER JAR

THE ALABASTER JAR (Luke 7: 36–50; Mark14: 3-9 ). By Funmilola Adeniran


The alabaster jar, was all that my mother left me. A fat, round, white piece of Asian pottery with blue stripes which had sat on the top shelf in the corner of our two room abode. Stout and mysterious. It wasn’t a particularly pretty pot, but it contained an ointment so precious and powerful that as a young child I had viewed it with a certain sense of awe and trepidation. It was the symbol of my mother’s happiness, the sign of hope amidst her bickering internal turmoil. It was the secret of her rare smile and the one thing that contained the essence that brought my father’s presence. When he died, it was the only thing my mother hid from the creditors when they came and took everything we owned.

As I sat alone on my modest bed, I fingered the delicate blue patterns on the ceramic surface. I couldn’t help but think of my mother, her soft white skin against jet black hair, her tiny frail features and her laughter, the part of her that had won my father’s heart. Tears glistened my cheeks as I pondered what could have been had she been stronger than my father’s betrayal. Had she known about his debt, and about his other family? Perhaps she had always known. I suspect she always knew but had wanted to believe that she had been the only one in his life. Perhaps my story would have been different.

My fingers were wrapped tight around the small jar as I rose in a hurry and sighted my hooded veil. The alabaster jar was placed on the table beside me as I put it on, dressing warmly for the cool evening. I closed my eyes as I thought of what I was about to do. The night was still young and I could meet them if I hurried. I stared at the alabaster jar. It was my life, my only source of existence, the tie to my past and my hope for the future. But I knew what I had to do and I believed it was the right thing.

I walked out clutching the jar within the folds of my garments. Memories of mother came to me as I began the trek down to the house where the feast was being held. To walk out of my home meant to make myself vulnerable, but the memories kept me focused when persecution came. The attacks were both physical and verbal, and to those who did not understand me, well deserved. Those who scorned me were well within their rights and those who envied me knew nothing of the loneliness and shame of the morning after. But there were those who hated me for who I was and for what I stood for, a reminder to them of the longing they had been unable to satisfy.

No one knew anything of my past and my experiences, and no one cared to know. The sly glances, whispered comments and outright disdain were garments I wore as well as my clothes. I kept my head bowed as I walked, my mother’s face etched on the ground before me. She was smiling. It was enough to keep me going.

“Thief!”

I could see her clearly, cooking, sweeping and cleaning. Clearing the cupboards and arranging the drawers. Preparing our home had always been a delight to her.

“Don’t pass by this way again!”

“Filthy harlot! Curses upon you.”

It was the one time I would smell flowers in the house. Mother would pick them from the garden and our eyes would lock as she set them on the table. Her smile would light up the room. She was beautiful.

“Stay at home you sinner.”

Then down would come the alabaster jar with its deep round cover. We would kneel side by side as she dipped one finger in its thick sweet smelling mixture. Just a drop, more than enough to perfume the freshly made bed with aloes, myrrh, cinnamon and incense. A sweet smelling fragrance that permeated our home with an atmosphere of warmth and invitation. I loved it and my father had loved it.

“You wicked woman, you evil….”

When she had worn her best clothes and set the food on the table, she would brush her delicate hair. It was the only time she let it down. With fingers still laced with ointment and olive, she would brush over and over again till it shone. I would watch with awe and desire, longing for an opportunity to do the same to my short shock of hair.

He never came very often, but the sweet smelling fragrance of the precious perfume lingered in our home for days long after he had gone. I recalled being comforted in her arms while crying for my father and being rocked to sleep by the smell of her hair.

I dared to look up as I continued my journey. Angry, suspicious eyes followed my footsteps as I took the winding path onto the narrow way. The evening was cool and dark and blue, a reminiscence of my mood. The grass on either side of the path was laced with occasional poppies and little blue four petaled flowers. My eyes were drawn to them as I remembered my fathers’ last memories. His strong musky smell as he lifted me high in the air and my squeals of innocent laughter at his fond whispers of favorite names.

A fist full of dirt in my face brought me back to reality.

“Go back to your dirty little shack! What rights have you to come this way?”

I looked up to see three women line the path. One held a baby, another had a jar of water perched on her shoulder. The last wore the angry smirk of a scorned wife. I stopped to wipe away the mud streaks from my wet face. Their eyes were flashing with anger and pure hatred but what amazed me the most was the curiosity in them. What did I have that they didn’t? What power over their men? In that instance, I found I could not hate them. I could only pity. I could only try to understand.

“What is she doing here?”

“You are not welcome here…”

I brush past them my head held high as I tightened my grip on the alabaster jar.

“Stones are what you deserve and not sand. You won’t be so lucky next time.”

Stones, I deserved stones and maybe more. At least that was what I had thought before the incidence at the synagogue street.

 

To be continued……….

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