Updated: Nov 16, 2021
With a pang of loneliness, she turned the dough and rolled it beneath her hands, the yeasty aroma rising to her nose. It was a familiar scent—the fragrance of a home—but it reminded her that her home was empty. With a sigh, she dusted the flour from her hands and set the dough to rise. She picked up her broom. Usually Mary would have done the sweeping, but her daughter had been gone for three months now. Three whole months! Each day weighed heavier than the last.
Before tears could rise in her eyes, Anne heard someone call out from the doorway, “Anne! You home?”
She welcomed the distraction. “Come in, Hadassah!” Anne returned and set aside her broom to greet her next-door neighbor and friend.
“Oh don't let me stop you,” Hadassah laughed as she settled herself on the bench with a sigh of relief. “I just popped by to see if you'd heard from Mary yet.”
Anne swallowed hard. So much for distraction. She picked up her broom and gathered the bits of dry grass and dust into a pile. If only she could collect her emotions as easily. “No, not since the last letter. Elizabeth was near to her time, so I'm hoping it won't be too much longer.”
“I still can't believe it,” Hadassah laughed with wonder. “Your cousin Elizabeth having a baby at her age! It's a miracle.”
“It is indeed.” Anne nodded. Elizabeth was an old woman now, old enough to be a great-grandmother. It was hard to picture her cumbersome with pregnancy, as she must be by now if she hadn't yet given birth. Anne shook her head a little, remembering the anxiety she had felt leading up to her due date with Mary. She sent up a quick prayer for her cousin.
“It was nice of Mary to go be with her,” Hadassah said, reaching for the clay pitcher and pouring herself a glass of water. “But, she has always been sweet, your girl.”
“Mary is a treasure,” Anne said warmly, tossing the dirt out the door and settling down across from her friend. “I'm sure every mother feels the same way, but Mary is truly a gift from God.”
Hadassah leaned forward with a gleam in her eye, “And this will be a good experience for her, witnessing a birth. Before she knows it, she will be wed and bearing children of her own!”
“From your lips to God's ears!” Anne laughed. “Yes, I look forward to being a grandmother.” Her arms ached to hold a baby, but first, Mary needed to return to Nazareth and her betrothed. Thoughts of her future son-in-law warmed her heart. Joseph was a righteous man, he would take good care of her daughter.
As if reading her mind, Hadassah asked, “How is Joseph doing these days?”
“Good! He was here yesterday, asking if Mary was back yet. But surely you saw him,” Anne said as she raised a brow.
“Yes...” Hadassah laughed. “But I didn't overhear what he said.”
Anne chuckled and shared Joseph's progress as he prepared his home before taking Mary as his wife. They had been betrothed for almost a year, the traditional period of waiting before the wedding. If Mary was home now, no doubt she would be eagerly packing the items she had gathered for her new life, keeping them ready in anticipation of the day Joseph came for her.
Anne was half-way through relating the improvements to his house when both women paused and glanced at the doorway, ears pricking up. It sounded like there was a crowd of people outside. The women shared a glance and hurried outside to see what all the fuss was about.
Anne's heart did a leap when she saw who was drawing all the attention. Mary. Her daughter was surrounded by neighbors and friends welcoming her home as she unhurriedly made her way down the street . Mary leaned towards a little boy and laughed at what he said. The sight of her daughter made tears prickle in the back of Anne's eyes. She couldn't wait a moment longer.
“Mary!” Anne cried out, rushing forward. The crowd parted to let the mother embrace her daughter. Anne hugged her daughter close, the two of them swaying gently back and forth as everyone chattered around them.
“How was your journey?” one called.
“Were you stopped by soldiers?” a little boy shouted, and his mother shushed him.
“How are your cousins Elizabeth and Zechariah?”
Anne stepped back as Mary answered everyone, finishing with, “Elizabeth gave birth to a son, a beautiful little boy named John.”
As everyone praised God for His blessings, Anne put her arm around Mary and drew her towards the house. She could tell the young girl didn't want to disappoint anyone, but she appeared tired from her journey. As they ducked inside, everyone else returned to their business, their voices drifting away.
Anne bustled around, slicing bread and bringing over a dish of oil and vinegar. She sat opposite her daughter, drinking in her face.
Mary ate hungrily, smiling at her mother, but there was something in the girl's eyes that caught Anne's motherly attention. Anne couldn't put her finger on what she discerned; it wasn't fear, or anxiety, but a certain caution. Mary was a quiet girl, treasuring things in her heart rather than blurting them out, but Anne hoped that the young woman would share what seemed to be weighing on her mind.
When the bread was eaten, Mary leaned back and dusted off her fingers.
“So?” Anne prompted with a smile. “How are you, my dear, really?”