We read and discuss midrash today at IVoW, and when we had room for our own creative explorations later in the afternoon, I wrote one of my own. It draws on an old midrash about Lilith, followed by a more contemporary midrash that's a response to the first, The Coming Of Lilith. I wanted a midrash where Adam would be given room to learn. I picked the name "Elaine" randomly, but it turns out that it means "sun ray" or "shining light," so -- well, I guess it works! In any case, this is a first draft, quickly written longhand on a notepad in a bit under an hour... but the other women in the circle liked it, and asked if they could have a copy, so... here it is.
When the earth was still freshly-dug over Abel's grave, and Cain's room was still strewn about as he had left it, a grieving Eve and Adam found that they were once again with child.
"No," said Adam, trying to wall off the hurt. "Again?" For he was now used to losses and exiles from those he loved and where he longed to be.
"Another chance," said Eve. "Do you regret your sons?"
"I love my sons," said Adam, realizing that he still spoke in the present tense. And so he started the preparations that he could make: building another crib, stocking the firewood and putting up the food so that there would be plenty when the baby came. Eve took the two worn baby blankets that the boys had used and patched them into a third, a quilt. And together they cleaned what had been the boys' room and made it a nursery once more, weeping and remembering as they went, praying for their child who was gone, their child who was lost, and their child who was yet to be.
Lilith arrived when it was time to birth. It was Adam who opened the door to find her on that winter night, holding the amulets with the names of the three angels in her outstretched hand, an offering of peace. He looked at her for a long moment, and a struggle passed across his face, and then he stepped aside to let her in -- who else would midwife? -- and fled out to pace deep tracks in the snow beside Abel's grave. "I will do better," Adam muttered to himself, breath fogging in the air. "I will not make the same mistakes. I will not have a child lost again." Of all the people in his life, Eve was the only one who'd ever stayed.
Eve's face contorted in a scream. She was much older now, twenty years past her first child, and her muscles struggled through the memory of birthing as the sweat cascaded from her body. Lilith helped her remember. "I lose a hundred children every day," Lilith whispered to Eve. "I must birth many more. It never gets easier, but you do become more able to bear it. Breathe and push." Eve pushed, and pushed -- for an eternity she pushed -- and finally, there in the firelight, Elaine was born.
Her mother cried as she embraced her. Her father ran in, snowdrops thawing from his beard, suddenly softened and awkward and afraid to touch and bruise another life. And Lilith tied the amulets around the child's neck -- "to protect her from me, until she comes of age," she said -- and she and Eve whispered together something that Adam couldn't hear. But Adam didn't notice. Nor did he look up when Lilith left as silently and suddenly as she had come. He was rocking his infant daughter, wrapped in the sleeve cut from Abel's jacket and patched with Cain's pocket lining, embraces of brothers no longer seen but somehow present.
Elaine took over Abel's garden with her sunflowers. She ran in the hills with the progeny of Cain's old herd. She terrorized the chickens in the backyard and brought Eve their eggs, and picked half the tomatoes before they were ripe. Eve smiled and made fried green tomatoes repeatedly for brunch.
And Adam was terrified. "Elaine -- don't touch! Elaine -- don't climb! Elaine, get off that -- please wait for Daddy -- hold my hand, okay? Elaine, be careful; do you know how dangerous those hills can be? Eve, honey, what were you thinking when you let -- ELAINE, PUT DOWN THAT KNIFE!"
"Then you cut the tomatoes, dear," said Eve, as she and Elaine left Adam to finish the spaghetti sauce -- which he eventually did; it was delicious. But soon:
"Elaine!" shouted Adam. "Do NOT do backflips from the apple tree! And come inside! And put a shirt on! You're not a baby any more--"
"But dad, it's hot out!" his daughter protested, dangling upside down from a branch by her knees. "And you don't have a shirt on either. And last night you said I was your baby girl. And--"
"That... that was metaphorical! I mean, it's -- like a nickname!" Adam said. "And daddies don't have to wear shirts. Because... we don't. And... please GET DOWN, ELAINE. Thank you. Just... please be careful. I don't want anything to happen to you."
Eve watched and shook her head. Later, when Elaine had gone to bed:
"What?" sputtered Adam. "When she was born, you said -- another chance. I just don't want to screw this one up."
Eve hugged him tightly. "Her life is her chance, Adam. Not mine, not yours. We have our own opportunities, and Elaine needs the room to grow into hers. So I have asked her godmother to take and teach her for a little while, so you and I can have our own time to learn the things we need to learn, and Elaine can start to see who she wants to become -- just like I did, all those many years ago when I first left the garden."
"You didn't leave me," Adam said.
"Because I left the garden," Eve said. "And because of who I found there when I did."
"Who will take care of her?" Adam asked. "She's just a child -- I have to --"
"She will learn to care for herself," thundered a voice at the doorway.
"Ah, yes," Eve nodded. "Meet Elaine's godmother."
"Lilith," Adam said. "I should have known. Who else would teach my daughter how to live alone?"
"Not alone," Lilith replied. "I am here to help Elaine learn how to live with herself."
"And we will be here when she comes back home," Eve said to Adam.
"YES!" blurted Elaine, who had been listening in the kitchen all along. "TOTALLY SWEET!"
Adam looked at the three women skeptically, but sighed and was quiet. And when the time came, he hugged his daughter with a last "be careful!" and a breaking voice.
And Eve and Adam watched Elaine and Lilith walk until they disappeared into the forest, then walked home to lay one of Elaine's sunflowers on Abel's grave, and prayed for Cain as well, who they had long forgiven. And as they waited for their children, they learned and grew themselves, together.
And so it was that Elaine went to begin her apprenticeship. But of the many wild and wonderful years that followed, other scribes in other times must tell -- because I'm out of paper.
Also read this weekend -- out loud quietly to a group is best, as that's what had the greatest impact on me -- was the sermon "God is a Woman and She is Growing Older."