It could happen to you

When I was a child and thought about World war two, the war my parents had endured, and the way the Jewish people had suddenly lost everything overnight it occurred to me nothing is permanent. You can work hard all your life to build something up, to create the illusion of security and then in a heartbeat it’s taken from you. Everything gone.


Vandals destroyed the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary that stood tall within a grotto built of stone in the garden at my old school Vaucluse. The vandals left intact the statue of Bernadette, a smaller figure in white, her hands clasped as she gazes up at Mary asking for help. 

I walked past this grotto almost every day of the six years I attended my school and enjoyed the fact we had our own grotto. Our own slice of the history of Catholicism. 

Every May we held a May Day Mass in honour of Mary, to emulate celebrations in Europe and springtime. For us the autumn.

Suddenly I want only to sleep, it’s cold in Melbourne were into our autumn on our way to winter and there we are celebrating the ascension into Heaven of Mary the mother of god. Flowers and ribbons and songs run through my head. 

Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms today 

Queen of the angels and queen of the May…

Songs like ear worms on my heard. 

Oh Queen of the holy rosary

Oh bless us as we pray 

And offer you our roses in garlands day by day. 

I sang these songs by rote and paid scant attention to the meaning of the words. The music and rhythm, the sound that came from my mouth, the sound that came into my ears from the voices of other girls, all of us lined up in twos with a candle in hand and unlit on our way to the grotto to join Bernadette on her knees to sing a song of devotion to a woman I thought of as beautiful and slightly impossible. 

The idea of the immaculate conception troubled me. As a child I could not understand how she could have a baby inside without someone putting oi there. And that God put it there simply because he wanted or that an angel or some other dignitary from on high popped down from Heaven and put it there seemed dangerous like it could happen to any of us girls.

2 thoughts on “It could happen to you”

  1. The idea of the immaculate conception never troubled me. I grew up addicted to science fiction and the idea that an alien could impregnate a human female remotely was perfectly believable. We assume it was from a distance although who’s to say she wasn’t beamed up to a starship and the procedure carried out there under anaesthesia and her memory wiped? Science, even the early sixties, was moving on apace and every year there was something to be absorbed into our daily life that only a few years earlier we would’ve considered, well, science fiction. I’ve never dwelt on the mechanics of Mary’s pregnancy. It was said to have happened and it didn’t take much of a stretch of my imagination to accept it as within the realm of possibly. The perpetrator was, after all, the entity who claimed to have invented chemistry, physics and biology so it wasn’t outwith his capabilities. That I didn’t understand how wasn’t important. I didn’t understand how a transporter worked or a tricorder or a phaser either.

    Another thing I don’t understand is vandalism. I’m a creative type and so destruction, in any form, really goes against the grain with me. Especially pointless destruction. I don’t really get pointless creation either. Why do we need a new mobile phone every few months? Graffiti I sort of get and, let’s face it, it’s been raised to an art form these days thanks to Banksy and his peers and, of course, they would argue that what they do is far from pointless. Damaging a religious artifact could have a point as long as it went with a statement. It’s not an artistic act so we shouldn’t be left to guess at the perpetrator’s intentions. It’s like when someone slashes a work of art in broad daylight, is arrested and then explains their motives. I still don’t approve but I can understand. Smashing up a phone booth I don’t get. The kids digging up stones in our car park leaving a deep hole cars now have to take care to avoid I don’t get.

  2. It sounds as though the mystical is less confusing for you Jim, than the human destructive element as on wanton vandalism. To me, both make sense, not that I’d indulge either myself. Thanks, Jim.

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