From the Relief Society Magazine, December 1951 –
By Mary R. Ross
It was a day for weeping. The timid young wife, her heart fluttering like a frightened bird’s, cast a tear-dimmed glance over the room. Her home was ready to leave, as clean and pretty as her two small hands could make it, the floors and-scoured to bread-board whiteness, the three boxes, which served as table and chairs, still fragrant with their soap and water scrubbing, and the baking powder tins which brightened her improvised cupboard, gleamed with silver-like luster.
Mary agreed with George. It did seem rather silly to clean, when the bonfire, to set fire to the house, “the minute Johnston’s Army enters the valley,” was already laid in the middle of her clean floor.
“But,” Mary tried to explain to her husband, “if our dear little house must become a burnt offering, I’m determined it will be a pleasing sacrifice, as beautiful in the sight of God, as it is, and always has been to me.”
As she spoke the tears could not be blinked back. They rolled down her pale cheeks like rain on a windowpane.
“Down the road a piece” she had sighted the wagon, loaded with women and children, on its way to pick her up and take her south with them. For one brief moment, Mary sought replenished courage in George’s firm, comforting embrace, mentally recording, forever and ever, if perchance this were his last kiss, the tenderness and warmth of his farewell.
She had consented to the Move South, but every fiber of her being rebelled at the break with all their marriage had created and made sacred, save only her unborn babe. Right now, she felt that even it might be ruthlessly wrenched from her tender flesh. She turned from George, that he might not suspect that labor had already begun. Each day, for weeks past, she had set her house in order, lest the baby come before morning. Now, when she most needed strength to travel, her hour was at hand.
Broken dreams, disappointment, disillusionment, rough, rocky roads, and wracking pain, all blurred into a seething, scorching inferno, as the trip continued. Her lip was blue from biting, her palms were scarred by the digging of her nails, and her body became so tense it felt like it might momentarily fly into bits, but there was still no stopping. Minutes seemed hours, and hours felt like frantic days, but the wagons moved steadily south, until they came to the Point of the Mountain, where the one in which Mary rode had to tarry.
There, the sisters saw that Mary could travel no further. A shallow hole in the mountain, too small to be called a cave but extended by upraised umbrellas, became her improvised bed. Lacking necessities, trained help, or any medicines to partially lessen her agony, save the confused, tangled memory that repeated and re-repeated, of another Mary who successfully gave birth under circumstances equally difficult, she prayed endlessly. Both the sisters and the skies wept as Mary, in primitive travail, brought forth her child.
No wise men came bearing gifts, no shepherds came to worship and adore, no star shone, but yes, one tired, dim little star did peep between umbrellas to wink reassuringly at Mary. And in joy her heart silently sang an anthem of praise and thanksgiving for the birth of her son.