By Heather Cooper
Life is difficult for Courtney and her mum. A surprise gift from her great-grandmother, telling of her experiences during World War II in bombed London, puts their difficulties into perspective, however.
Courtney, a 17 year old
Great Grandmother (old voice - young voice)
(Stage is a living room/kitchen of a cramped apartment. There is a mirror up stage in the middle with a 2-shelf bookcase underneath. Slightly downstage to the left is a worn armchair. Mom is putting finishing touches on her make-up and taking off a “Zellers-type” smock and putting on a waitress “uniform” (apron) before heading out on her second work shift of the day. Christmas music is playing softly on the radio. Courtney enters, stage right, with her backpack, coming home from school, drops her backpack on the floor and wanders toward the chair.)
Mom: Courtney, pick that up! I’m tired of tripping over it. This place is so small that we have to put everything where it goes, or we won’t be able to move!
Courtney: Okay, okay, I know. (Picks up backpack, heads back toward chair, but on the way by shuts off stereo.)
Mom: Hey! I was listening to that! It’s helping me get into the Christmas spirit.
Courtney: What for? (Slumps in her chair.)
Mom: Well, aren’t you the jolly one today? What’s wrong, honey?
Courtney: (mumbles) Nothing.
Mom: (Stops doing her make-up; goes over to the chair.) It’s not hard to see that something’s bothering you. What is it?
Courtney: Don’t you have to go to work again?
Mom: I’ve got a few minutes yet. C’mon. What’s up?
Courtney: My whole life is a mess! It would take a lot longer than a few minutes to explain.
Mom: (Sits on the arm of the chair.) So, Ed will have to run things by himself for a while longer. I’m listening – talk!
Courtney: They hate me.
Courtney: Everyone at school. All my so-called “friends”.
Mom: Hate’s a strong word. How do you know they hate you?
Courtney: Nobody’s talked to me for two days. Sophie started it all! She’s mad ‘cause her ex-boyfriend, Scott, keeps hanging around my locker. She and her group keep whispering and pointing and laughing whenever I have to walk by them.
Mom: Teenagers can be so mean! That really hurts, I know. Never mind. It will be Christmas break in two days. Things will have blown over after the holidays.
Courtney: (glumly) I doubt it. But that’s another problem. What am I going to do all by myself every day. You’re always working.
Mom: (sounding stressed) I know, honey. I wish I didn’t have to, but I need both of these jobs to make ends meet. We’re just barely scraping by as it is.
Courtney: (plaintively) I miss you, Mom. It’s lonely here on my own all the time. Did you get Christmas Eve off?
Mom: (sighs) No. I really tried, but Ed’s short-handed. He says it’s one of his busiest days. And the tips will be really good. We can’t afford to miss out on them. (Pause) Your Dad has invited you over to his house, Courtney. I think you should go.
Courtney: (vehemently) NO!! He left us! Let him come here if he really wants to spend time with me!
Mom: He has his new family now. They’ll want him with them. I know you’re still angry with him, Sweetheart, but you’re going to have to forgive him sometime.
Courtney: I just can’t yet, Mom! It still hurts! And being over there just makes it worse. I can’t stand Lisa! She keeps trying to mother me. And when I see Dad goofing around with her kids the way he used to goof around with me, it makes me feel kind of like he’s abandoned me. I don’t want to go there Christmas Eve, Mom. Don’t make me.
Mom: (Squeezes Courtney’s shoulder as she stands up.) We’ll work something out, honey. You’ll see. I’d better get going. Why don’t you do some decorating tonight? That will make you feel better.
Courtney: Yeah, whatever.
Mom: That reminds me – something came for you today. (Picks up parcel and hands it to Courtney.) A parcel from England from your great-grandmother’s estate. Something she left you in her will, I imagine.
Courtney: Me? I only met her twice. Why would she give me something?
Mom: (smiling) You must have really impressed her during those times. She was proud of her great-granddaughter. She always asked to talk to you whenever she phoned.
Courtney: (a small smile on her face) I really liked her, too. She was so… spunky for an old lady. She had, you know, a really great attitude about everything.
Mom: Well, open it up! I gotta go! See you at eleven. Bye! (Mom exits, right)
(Courtney gets up and starts to open up the package on the floor. She first pulls out a letter, opens it and begins to read. Gradually, the great-grandmother’s old voice superimposes over hers.)
G.G.’s old voice: My dear great-granddaughter:
An eighty-year old lady still knows one or two things, and one thing I know is that I’m not going to be around forever. My heart problems are numbering my days. So I wanted to put my worldly affairs in order, and to make sure I passed on to my family the small bits of wisdom I have managed to acquire over these eighty years. I have always had my eye on you, Courtney, my dear. You remind me of myself when I was your age – feisty, a bit stubborn, full of love and life. But I’ve heard, through the family grapevine, that things have been quite difficult for you and your mother lately.
I wish I had a family fortune to pass on to you, to relieve your financial woes, but I’m afraid that was used up decades ago. In its place, however, I’ve sent you a treasure of a different sort – a treasure in earthen vessels, so to speak; riches from Isaiah 9:6! I’ve instructed my solicitor to include this letter in the package he sends you after I have passed on.
May you have joy in the discovery, Courtney.
Eternally yours, Great-Grandmother Laura
(Courtney’s voice blends in and takes over at the closing of the letter.)
Courtney: Hmmm! What does she mean… treasure? Let’s see what’s in here… (Unwraps a china figure of a Wise Man.)
Courtney: Oh… it’s Great-Grandmother’s Nativity Scene. I remember this from the Christmas we stayed with her in England. Wow! I can’t believe she gave this to me! (Looks around the room.)
Courtney: I know, I’ll set it up on this shelf.
(Carries the figure to the shelf by the mirror, then looks the figure over carefully before setting it down.)
Courtney: This Wise Man is so amazing! Look at the detail in the clothing! (Lifts up the cloak at the back and finds a hidden piece of folded paper.) Hey! What’s this paper doing here?(Pulls out paper and unfolds it.) It looks like a page torn out of a journal or diary of some sort.
(Courtney begins to read, then Great-Grandmother’s young voice takes over. In the background, air raid sirens, planes and bombs exploding can be heard.)
G.G.’s young voice: Dear Diary: I’ve just had the most frightening but most amazing experience of my life! For many nights now, the Germans have been bombing London. Nearly every night we go down into the Underground to sleep, and every day, we brush ourselves off and go about our business, as much as possible, with the fires and destruction of the night before all around us.
It’s the most terrifying thing to hear that raspy whistle as a bomb falls - but even more terrifying when it stops – then, the explosion! Some have fallen very close to our shelter, but thankfully, we have all been safe.
Up until now, the bombs have only fallen at night, so I’ve been able to attend school most days. Today, however, I was walking home with my friend, Lottie, when we heard the sirens and saw a plane overhead. It was flying low, directly above us! I was so frightened, I froze! I finally realized that Lottie was tugging on me and trying to pull me towards her parents’ store, which was very close by and I started to go with her. But suddenly, as clear as glass, I knew we mustn’t go there! Instead, we must run as fast as we could toward the Underground station where I knew Mum would go when she heard the siren. I grabbed Lottie’s hand, and, with a strength I didn’t know I possessed, pulled her with me toward the shelter. We hadn’t gone a hundred yards when we heard that awful whistle and the bomb exploded just as we flew down the steps to the Underground, debris flying around us.
We both found our families in the shelter, but when the “all clear” sounded and we came out, Lottie’s parents’ store, where we had been about to take shelter, was completely destroyed!
I know, as surely as I’m alive, that Jesus guided me to safety. My Dad showed me a Bible verse in Isaiah that tells of the names of Jesus and of his qualities: Isaiah 9:6. One of these names describes this experience exactly! He is my Wonderful Counselor. Isaiah 9:6! Laura
Special Music: “Jesus, What a Beautiful Name”
(Lights come up on Courtney, pulling another figure, a Shepherd, from the box.)
Courtney: This one must be a Shepherd. I wonder if there’s paper hidden on all these figures? (Lifts up the cloak and finds another folded paper. Pulls it off and unfolds it) This is so interesting. I can’t imagine going through all that!
(Courtney starts to read and, as before, Great-Grandmother’s young voice super-
G.G.’s young voice: Dear Diary:
This war is impossible to bear! At first, it was rather exciting, even though it was frightening, and sleeping in the shelters was a novelty. But, after a month of almost nightly air raids, the novelty has definitely worn off. It is very difficult to sleep with all those people rustling, snoring, groaning and whispering, so all of us are over-tired, short-tempered and impatient.
Yesterday, my father was gone all night on air raid warden’s duty. The sirens hadn’t gone off by bedtime, so my mother and I gratefully crawled into our own beds, hoping for a peaceful night’s sleep. We awoke three hours later, with a start, to hear sirens screaming and bombs already falling very close to us. We had unbelievably slept through the first sirens and now it was too late to run to the shelter.
We scrambled down to the cellar, and as the bombs fell closer and closer to our home, we could feel the ground shaking and we could hear the fires roaring as houses in our neighbourhood went up in flames.
I clung to my Mum in terror, and she began to pray. She prayed for protection and for peace instead of fear, then she read from the Bible she had grabbed as we ran downstairs. Gradually, my terror subsided as I pictured Jesus keeping me safe. When my father came home the next morning, he was astonished to find Mother and I sound asleep in each other’s arms on the cellar floor.
Later, I asked Mum what passage in the Bible she had read and she told me it was Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.” Jesus is truly the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 Laura
Special Music: “Manger Throne”
Courtney: (Places Shepherd on the shelf.) Wow! And I think I have problems! How did they live through months of that? (Goes back to the box and pulls out the figure of Mary.) Here’s Mary. She’s so beautiful! (She looks under the clothing and pulls out another paper.) What more could go wrong for Laura, I wonder?
G.G.’s young voice: Dear Diary:
It’s gone! Everything’s gone!! The raids were awful last night. The shelter two over from us was a direct hit. Everyone was killed! The next shelter over also lost a few, with many badly injured, but we were untouched.
However, when we emerged from the shelter and went home – home was gone! As we stood there, numbly, looking at the hole that was our cellar and a few charred timbers, our neighbours came over and showed us the piano that had been saved from the flames by the fire -fighters, and our Nativity set that we always kept in the cupboard near it. But that was all! My life, basically, gone up in flames! Our neighbours have kindly taken us in, but what we will do next, I do not know. My father says we still have each other and we have our faith in a Mighty God, who is bigger than all this trouble. He is still in control and we will trust Him. What else can we do? Isaiah 9:6 Laura
Special Music (2): “Emmanuel” & Judith Nergaard
(Courtney folds up the paper and puts it back on the figure of Mary. She sets the figure on the shelf.)
Courtney: (looks around her) This place is small, but it’s a home, somewhere we can sleep in peace and safety. (Pause) I wonder if this (indicates Nativity set) was the same Nativity? (Reaches into the box.) Who’s next? Ah, Joseph. (Finds the folded paper and pulls it out. Begins to read, then Great-Grandmother’s young voice takes over.)
G.G.’s young voice: Dear Diary:
I’ve been evacuated. People in the country have opened up their homes to the children of London to allow them to live in safety until the Germans stop the bombing.
I begged Mother and Father not to send me, but they said they wouldn’t be able to live with themselves if I was killed. I think it’s more important for us all to be together, but I could not make them see things my way.
So here I am, in the home of strangers, who are very nice, but they are not my mum and dad. They make their oatmeal very lumpy, and they insist that I wash my hands about a dozen times a day. I have a cold right now, and they follow me around with the disinfectant every time I touch something. You’d think I was Typhoid Mary!
Honestly, I’ve cried myself to sleep so often I can’t count, and every morning I wake up with an ache inside me that won’t go away. I miss my parents so much, and I’m so worried about their safety, with London still being bombed so often.
But last night, as I lay awake worrying, I called out to God – just a simple prayer. It was like I was crying, “Help me!” Suddenly, I felt a warm and gentle presence. I felt like I was being lifted up and held close, like God was telling me that He was my dear Father in Heaven, always with me; that I was never alone.
It will be enough, until I can go home again. Isaiah 9:6 Laura
Special Music: “Hallelujah” Dance – Jaimie Cooper
Courtney: At least I still have my Mum around. We have a great time on her Saturdays and Sundays off. (Pause, puts Joseph in the display) I guess I really haven’t been giving my Dad much of a chance to be a Dad to me either. Maybe I should go over there Christmas Eve. It would be better than being here all alone.
Courtney: Now for the final piece of the Nativity – the baby Jesus. (Pulls the baby Jesus out of the box and looks on the bottom, removing the paper.) Here’s the paper – underneath this time! ( Reads as before.)
GG’s young voice: Dear Diary:
It’s Christmas 1941. I’m home with Mother and Father in a new flat that they’re renting. Our Royal Air Force has defeated the Luftwaffe over Britain, and the air raids have finally stopped. It seems the worst is over, though the war rages on in Europe.
It has been a dreadful experience, but I believe I’ve learned a great deal from it. I wouldn’t want to go through it again, but, strangely enough, I wouldn’t want to have missed it either.
I have found a secret place on the back of each of the figures from the Nativity set we saved from our burned out house, and I’ve had the idea to take pages from my diary, which tell of my experiences, and fold them up and hide them in the back of the figures. Maybe it will help someone else know Jesus as I know Him now. Isaiah 9:6 Laura
Courtney: I want to know Him, too, Great-Grandmother. What is Isaiah 9:6? (Takes a Bible out of the bookcase and looks it up.) Here it is:
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon his shoulder And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Courtney closes the Bible thoughtfully. Lights out.)
Special Music: “God of Every Generation”
Copyright Heather Cooper, all rights reserved.
This script may be performed without royalty payment, provided no charge is made for entrance to the performance. In return, the author would like to be told of any performance. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org