I have a clear recollection from my childhood of a time before I started kindergarten. It’s a fragment of memory, one of the many times when I came down with a high fever, maybe even the tropical flu. I’ll be upfront: it wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience for everyone in the family.
As my mother explained years later, my febrile imagination had me seeing invisible friends, little people who squatted at the corner of my bedroom or stood mutely by the window. God-fearing as she was, I can not tell you how much apprehension these so-called visions caused her. Talk of fairies and the other-worldly, and my supposed affinity with them as I was caught in a feverish grip, upset her to the point of tears.
These were terrifying moments no doubt. I’m glad that most of them are now lost in the fog of childhood memories. But there is one that stands out crystal clear.
I remember one night when I was wracked by feverish pain. My mother cradled me and tried to soothe me, but I cried to no end. Then suddenly she handed me a statue, a slender marble figure of the Virgin Mary.
That very moment I stopped crying as I gazed into the Holy Mother’s serene eyes. The stone felt cool in my tinder-like hands. Though my recollection is now hazy, I must have fallen asleep that night with the Virgin Mary near by.
There are times when I’d look back at that incident and wonder about that statue. Is it still with my mother, half way around the world in South East Asia, along with other icons of the Holy Family she keeps on her dresser? I imagine it must have lost its luster by now, its colors smoothed away by hands that handled the figurine with gentle reverence.
The photograph I’ve included with this essay comes from my own home in the US. The statue also feels cool to the touch. Gazing at it fills me with serenity as well.