One upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a beautiful young girl who, in the prime of her life, fell in love with an old carpenter.
The good man loved her very much and, with the coming of spring, he could at last merry her. They had a big wedding and celebrated with the whole village.
Everybody considered the old man a poor devil who, sooner or later, would have had to deal with the exuberant young men longing for his beautiful bride.
Months went by and when the young bride told him that she was pregnant, the carpenter ran to the tavern of the village, shared with everybody the good news and offered everybody a drink. A kid asked him how it was possible for an old man like him to have babies. The kid reiterated his disapproval for the news adding that the old carpenter could have been his grandfather.
His happiness was greater than any offence and, after all, how could a kid understand the most important issues of life faced by a man? The wine spoke on his behalf and smiling he answered that, since having a child had always been his biggest wish, God had wanted to reward him by sending on earth an angel who blessed his wife’s womb.
People with a bad heart have always the same reaction when they see someone happy, they can only answer with envy and spite and, soon, the carpenter’s innocent answer was turned against him becoming reason for mockery and insults.
Happiness, precious balm to offences, protected him from malicious gossip only until his wife, who went to the fountain to get the water from the well every day, started being ridiculed, pointed at and humiliated by sniggers marking her way through the village.
Such a pure soul could not hide her pain and when her husband asked why she was so sad, she sobbed and only managed to say a few words implying that something had happened on the day of the announcement of the coming birth of his child.
They lived in a small village and rumours ran fast. The problem, when this happens, is that nobody simply passes on the news as heard it by their source. Each time it goes from mouth to mouth, it gains new details freely chosen by the messenger.
Within a few months, the newlywed bride couldn’t stand being seen around anymore and the melancholy made her sick. She felt targeted by the other women and couldn’t understand why the miracle of life was so despised by those who lived the same emotions when carrying their child in their womb.
Are there different kinds of mothers? She wondered heartbroken. Her husband didn’t know what to do to help her overcome that melancholy that was saddening her eyes, as if that child were a burden of guilt to carry. He decided to run away and when the day arrived, he got his wife on the back of a donkey and travelled towards the sea. They travelled for many days and many nights, went through hills then mountains and just when they thought they would have died of cold, they reached the desert. There, in the hot spell, they wandered for many weeks and the woman felt like they were going in circles because the landscape never changed, it was like crystallised by the steam coming from the ground that made things look closer than they actually were. The couple spent the nights in a tent and when the first stars started giving way to the dawn, they began travelling again.
The carpenter didn’t feel tired, nor cold during the night or hot during the day. However, he did feel that his woman couldn’t put up with it all for much longer, her womb was far too big.
At night, before going to sleep, he put his hand on his baby who, from his watery world, showed his impatience to join the outside world. One night, he dreamt about the sea: a black and stormy sea, from which he could see strange fountains of blood. The blood splashed on the white foam and disappeared in the blue water without leaving a trace. When he got closer, he could see that that blue water was nothing more than an endless sea of hands. Hands of women and men, hands of children. Those still hands, stretching up and with open palms, triggered a sense of uncertainty in him as he woke up. He didn’t know whether to listen to his instinct and choose a different destination reachable by land or to follow his innate pragmatism.
A dream is not reality, Youssef.
But he kept having the same dream over and over, messing up with all his certainties and he finally decided to leave the desert and reach the closest village and then to continue travelling to the close Kingdom where nobody would have gossiped about his family.
Night after night, the dream filled with images that, in the morning, gave the man a sense of discomfort and anxiety.
A sea of hands, a sea of blood. All that blood came from a wound in the ribs of a lamb with snow-white wool and the tears of a child.
During their third week walking, now far from the dunes touched by the wind, Youssef imagined his son would be a carpenter just like him, working next to him in his workshop and sitting at the dining table of the lord. He was suddenly taken away from his fantasies by an old lament.
The search for a shelter and a midwife became harder as the day ended: to ensure that his son would not be born on the back of a donkey, he eventually stopped in an old stable at the end of the village.
It was a clear night and when the woman stopped screaming, after a moment of silence, the first wail of a creature blessed by the angels was heard by the cats resting under abandoned carts, owls hunting for rats and by the families of the farmers who lived nearby.
Those who share meagre meals are richer than an emperor is, it’s knows: the first approaching the stable were the women and the children and then the men.
The women brought food, beverage, hot sandwiches and chicken broth while the men congratulated the couple.
During the following days, every member of the community helped turning the old and abandoned stable into a decent abode where the artisan and his wife could live in peace and raise their child according to the principle of mutual respect.
As the artisan was particularly skilled at repairing the old stable, the notables of the city went to visit the new family, brought presents and good wishes and asked Youssef to help fixing all the houses and buildings that needed repairing.
The little Yehoushua grew healthy, strong and educated and he never had to face the humiliation of poverty and war. Yehoushua became carpenter, like his father, and lived preaching love among all creatures of god. Many people, amazed and inspired by his personality and sense of justice, relocated in his same village. The area started to blossom thanks to the exchange of knowledge among different people who came into contact thanks to the freedom of movement between countries.
When Yehoushua died, very late in life, his body was buried under an olive tree. The tree became the symbol of peace and brotherhood.
A story of prejudice and intolerance gave way to a sense of unity among people and allowed to avoid the sacrifice of the lamb.
By Cristina Monasteri
Translator Francesca Colantuoni