The only time Jesus came to me, was in that church in Bridlington, when I nicked him from the crib. He was small enough to fit in in my pocket and I thought the nativity scene looked better without him. The donkeys had more of a look in and Mary seemed relieved like Mum did when Gran looked after my little brother for the afternoon. That was before Gran’s tummy pain made it hard for her to cope with a baby. It was hard work too for me, hiding baby Jesus at home. I half-suffocated him under my pillow, disguised him in dolly clothes that didn’t fit properly, laid him to rest in the bottom of a shoe box with my other stolen treasures — the sparkly hairslide, coins from Mum’s purse and Gran’s pink lipstick which was too bright for her thin old lips anyway.
I don’t know why we went to Bridlington that winter. Seaside places were useless when it was cold. The arcades were closed and it rained all the time. I thought we were just sheltering from the storm in St Stephens church but later Mum said it was where Gran got married and she wanted to walk up the aisle again. Afterwards, she showed us a black and white photo of Gran in the porch of that church in a white lacy dress, standing next to a handsome man in uniform, both all smiles. Mum said it was sad because Gran didn’t have long with her new husband. Grandad was someone else Gran married in a registry office years later.
We went to Bridlington for the day again the next summer and it was raining then. I think it rained non stop for six months that year, all the time Gran’s tummy pain, got worse and baby Jesus lived with us, He made his return journey in the pocket of my pale blue Pac- a -Mac. I asked if I could go to church again while the others went down the Penny Arcade.
‘I want to say a prayer for Gran,’ I said. It wasn’t true but I did think if Jesus was back where he belonged, things might get a bit better. Mum looked teary and let me go. She said Gran needed all the help she could get now she was in hospital. Mum stayed on the porch rocking the baby and I went into the musty space on my own, walked up the aisle in my rustly blue Pac-a-Mac like Gran had in her lacy white dress. Next to the altar there was a grown-up Jesus on a cross I hadn’t noticed last time and I slipped the baby Jesus in between his toes. When we left the sun came out as if I had done something right, but it didn’t stay for long.