Hurrying home from Coats Field, a rambling store which once stood on the Pawtucket-Central Falls line, we raced against the darkening mill-lined streets, clutching our Christmas shopping, having spent good time and spare money on gifts for our families.
My gift for my mother that year was especially fragile, a very breakable "Madonna of the Kitchen" statue depicting the ultimate mother and little child standing, of course, in a kitchen, that favorite room in any home. I held the statue close to me, so happy to have found the perfect present for my mother, whose name was Mary, and who had cooking skills far superior to the other mothers back then.
I don't recall my mother's reaction to the gift when she opened it on Christmas morning, but it remained on display in her own small and very much-used kitchen — never breaking or chipping — until she passed away and I took the statue home. Dated on the bottom with a small "circa 1961," the statue witnessed thousands of amazing meals at her hands — and now hundreds of okay meals at mine. It stands a few inches above my own stove reminding me that miracles are indeed mysteries. How else to explain why I recently turned my back on the simmering stove a half-second before a glass casserole dish exploded into my back? Had I not turned to check a recipe, it would have exploded into my eyes. My love of reading is obsessive, so it's not very cheerful thinking about the possibilities of that accident that almost was. Happier to think of the early 1960s and the Christmas present that was my favorite to give that year, and my favorite to gaze at now, a gift which seems to still be giving.
It's just a religious-themed statue, a ceramic Christmas present from a little girl to her mom. Or is it? The statue is still in one piece and so am I. Seems like something of a miracle.
Arline Fleming is a freelance writer based in southern Rhode Island.