The Brick Baby
by David McLaughlan
Sorn is a pretty little Scottish village. Nothing more than a few rows of cottages and a post office, nestled in a restful valley. That’s where I met Jimmy and Morag Wilson. The Wilson were shepherds from a long line of shepherds and we fell to talking about a way of life that has almost disappeared from memory.
Reminiscing, Morag recalled her home, a single roomed “bothy” in the middle of nowhere with flag-stone floors and a thatched roof. Back then her father was paid the equivalent of a pound a week, or $100 a year, plus a sheep! So luxuries were scarce.
“How did you celebrate Christmas, out there in the hills?” I asked. “With prayers and hymns,” Morag replied, and the sweetness of her smile brought a lump to my throat. “It wasn’t much about gifts,” she continued.
“We might be given a sugar mouse and a piece of fruit. But, oh, one year I got hold of a catalogue. There was a baby dolly in there I wanted so badly. I was only six, after all. Well, of course Father and Mother had no money for such things. So Father made a pram from an apple box and some wheels and mother wrapped a brick in a baby blanket.”
Morag’s gaze seemed to leave the here and now as she thought back across the years.
“Oh, I loved my Brick Baby so much and I was as proud as can be, pushing it along in my new pram.”
Well, that story stayed with me. How could it not? I wrote it up and sent it in to a Scottish newspaper. Not knowing if it would be
published, I neglected to tell the Wilson’s about it.
It published in May 2005, but I missed it. The first I knew was when Morag phoned me the next day. It seemed Jimmy had been taken into hospital. It wasn’t a serious problem but meant an overnight stay. Morag was at a loss, she was worried for her husband and couldn’t remember the last night she had spent without him by her side.
Before going to bed that night she sat beside her coal fire with the paper, hoping it would distract her from the lonely ache she felt. She
was surprised to find the story of her long-ago Christmas in print but, as she read, the tale of her Brick Baby brought back the security and love of her childhood days. Her worries were replaced for a while by warmer, happier thoughts.
She slept soundly that night. I doubt if Morag’s mother and father could have ever imagined that their homemade gifts would bring comfort to their little girl in her old age, so long after they were gone.
I’m happy to report that Jimmy is back home and Morag is happily fussing over him. And I’m left thinking about the power of a kind, loving act and its ability to warm a heart more than eight decades later.