Maya Mai my baker friend has fewer cakes to bake this year- there’s not that many people around she says maybe we’re all feeling safer with home made breads, maybe she should price down her bakes she asks?
Maybe smaller cakes ….maybe she should sell tomato pickles,
There’s not that many people outdoors this year, & how dyou sanitise icing –
Maybe I should sell sanitizers, but that’s not my area of gifting, she laughs
my friend Maya Mai has the face of a waiting child, for gifts she knows she will miraculously receive end of day, she fills with light like dawn after midnight,
I love how she is when thinking on miracles: its all she has she says, not her thoughts, but her miracles. Her first child was born that way, her second and her third. And her husband – he was healed of his cough, the jobs he lost and found; how they built this two- roomed house, with all its blessings she counts them on the knuckles of her small lined hands, and in the bones of her toes ….
one time she counted them on beads she wears on her neck, all her miracles, one by one.
Last evening she said she ran out of beads, to count her miracles on. She pulled out old shells she had as a child running in the beach every dawn in the pockets of her shirt, her skirt held so she could hold her treasure without spilling it in the sand slope back home ..
my friend Maya still has those little and large shells, hump backed curled , spiraling cockels, baby conch, she hangs in rows between corridor and kitchen, for counting miracles she’s received even as tailor of her children’s clothes – hand me downs that need hems taken up or down,
Her children are 14, 12 , 10; her husband went to heaven one Tuesday on the 11th , 8 months ago,
her lips move with tears in them; if I’m looking for shadows in the valley of fear, they are not there, cuz it seems like Maya Mai my friend the baker woman talks with angels around the curtain of shells between her corridor and the oven,
counting every last blessing, the stack of clothes clips she found in a cardboard box , the new shoes her youngest child received as reward for walking a neighbors pet dog; for dew that falls in potted rose plant, and for hot water in her cold tap this morning that fell like kisses from heaven
in her face,
that shines like the sun. I’m trying hard not to stare – she counting miracles, and not knowing how to sell cakes baked last night, she giving them to me for my family and not taking a ruppee, insisting, I take home too, her tomato pickle no one may buy, that pickle red and warm like the sunlight in her eyes, as they dance with satisfaction.
I give her my well- wrapped little packet of blue silk blouse and sari, I’ve not worn it once! She opens it like I’ve given her acres of blue sky, unfolds it like stories to consume, drapes it on one thin boney shoulder, so fragile – its blades snap each time she raises her arm, she’s wound the sari ’round her waist, the size of the palm of my hand,
she winds it round her 5 feet frame, then stands 10 feet tall in corridor between her stove and miracles exploding in her eyes like stars o’er Bethlehem. I’m speechless I’m staring wide open. This is how beauty looks, this is how beauty prays, its face unafraid, like a sky with no night. I’m trembling shaken
wishing I’d got her somethings new, my blouse a size too large but Maya Mai clucks her tongue inside her chin, she’s a seamstress! She can take my blouse an inch in,
nah what’s matching thread? Yes,she has a stack of threads of white from old hems,
she’s bunched the sari in the waist of her saggy pajamas. “Don’t laugh,” Maya Mai cries for joy, pleats of sari tripping her arthritic feet with spurs in left foot, she swings on her right, the shirt beneath her silk a gaudy white, gaudy with turmeric oil stains from the pickles she just made
I’m not afraid , she says, and I can tell, oh I can. She’s full of confidence, its a fire. It wraps her pickles, o’er brown paper from her child’s old text book from last year. A thousand questions crowd the space in my throat and behind my teeth but what can speak in the presence of defeat of fear? This thing is bigger than David’s Goliath, this state of Maya Mai’s safety is no lie, it is that sword of Goliath taking off his own head, it is the wall of Jericho crashing down itself, it is Daniels lions purring in that hungry den that could’ve ripped him before he fell in, it is the fact of the Red sea spilling sideways in obedience, it is the Rod of Moses demolishing Pharoahs serpents;
it is that secret place of the shadow of the most high, abiding in the presence of the Almighty,
it is one tiny baby against all of Herod’s men, it is the blaze of that Star over a Manger an’
It is the God of my friend Maya Mai, her leaning on Him, turmeric oil stains on her shirt beneath my blue silk blouse, one I never wore because it was for this woman with the acres of heaven in her eyes.
I want to hold her hand say thank you but how do you shake hands with a miracle? How d’you hold a star, how dyou embrace a woman Daniel, how touch a Moses’ rod that swiped out Pharaohs serpents …. how d’you pick up the pieces of a broken Jericho wall , how d’you keep account,
except count them one by one,in the knuckles of your fist, in the bones of your toes …
I want to go home and be Maya Mai, she walks me to her low door put together with thermocol and cardboard and a red ribbon from Christmases few years ago, and I’ve not seen the joy in her face in any place else, its a wreath of peace
from the God of Christmas and Golgotha and The Resurrection, I saw You today Lord, in the face of my friend the baker woman.