The Mark Of Angels

Teri Goggin-Roberts
 

© Copyright 2003 by Teri Goggin-Roberts

Photo of a juggler.

Many years ago I visited Bern, the charming capitol of Switzerland. Feeling liberated from itineraries one evening, I wandered through the medieval streets into the heart of the city.  The warm twilight breeze had lured swarms of people into the town square. Old men played checkers at cement tables amid musicians, jugglers and other assorted street performers. I paused to drink in the carnival of sights and sounds.

An American accent rang out above the bustle.  "One...Two...Three!"

A burst of laughter erupted from the crowd around a juggler. I moved in closer, drawn in by his act and familiar accent.  After a finale of quick-handed magic tricks, appreciative onlookers threw coins and
moved on.

As the juggler bent down to collect the loose change, I felt compelled to connect.

"Excuse me. Uh, I liked your act."

The Juggler looked up with a surprised expression, as if he didn't expect anyone to stayaround.

"Hey thanks! You sound like an American."

I laughed, admitting that I'd been drawn to speak with him, maybe because of his Yankee accent too. As travelers tend to do, I politely asked him what part of the States he was from.

"California." the Juggler replied, "And you guys?"

I responded in the same general way. "Pennsylvania. Outside Philadelphia."

The juggler stopped picking up coins.

"Oh...Where outside Philadelphia?"

I was slightly taken aback. Why did the name of the town matter if he was from California? Feeling silly again, but strangely compelled to talk, I answered. "Haverford."

The Jugglers jaw dropped and his bearded face softened. He spoke barely above a whisper. "I went to Haverford High School."

"But I thought you said you were from California?"

The Juggler got up off his knees and sat on the edge of a concrete flower container. He drew in a breath and poured out a story he'd long locked away.

"I discovered I loved to perform while I was in high school. I wanted to study the Arts in college but my stepfather felt I should study a serious subject, like dentistry or something. I felt I had no choice, so I went to college in California, but I couldn't study what I didn't love. Rather than go home and face my stepfather, I left the States to pursue my dream in Europe." With a quiet sigh he concluded, "I haven't contacted my mother in 7 years."

After further discussion, I learned the Juggler's mother lived three minutes from our house. In fact, I drove past her home every day on the way to work. We stood in quiet awe of the "coincidence" of our meeting.

The Juggler broke the silence. "If I give you my mother's number, would you call her for me when you get back home? Would you tell her I'm okay?"

As a mother, I ached for a woman who was separated from her son. I nodded a tearful yes and tucked the number away. The Juggler and I parted, forever changed by our meeting thousands of miles from home.

On the plane ride back to the States, doubts crept into my thoughts. "What if his mother is angry? What if his mom doesn't want to hear from me?"

Once back home, I picked up the phone and put it back in the cradle countless times; but I couldn't ignore the strong inner voice that urged me to call. After taking a deep breath, I dialed the number on the crumpled piece of paper. A woman answered the phone. I spoke before I lost my nerve.

"Hello. You don't know me but...."  The story of my trip to Bern spilled out, rapidly reaching the part where I met the Jugglerin the town square. As I relayed her son's greeting, the woman cried. "Oh Thank God!"

In a voice thick with emotion, her questions tumbled out one after another, "How did he look? Was he well? Is he okay?"

I found myself in the peculiar position of describing a son to his mother. I assured her that he was healthy, happy and seemed to be doing well. I described the Jugglers hair, his beard and his request that I make contact with her. The Juggler's mom cried even harder.

"My son's last letter said he was thinking of coming home. He wrote that the next time I heard from him would be a sign that all was forgiven and he'd be home soon. This is the sign I was waiting for! Thank you so much for calling!"

After I hung up the phone, I marveled at the odds of meeting the Juggler at just the right place, at just the right time and at just the right moment in his life. I smiled through tears of my own and knew that chance had nothing to do with it.

Destiny, serendipity, sweet forgiveness -- it had all the marks of angels at work.

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