Kim Montenegro


Bringing the Bible to life for students requires us to pull out all the stops and offer as many creative entry points as we can.  This script does just that. This monologue, first performed at Youth 19, shows us the story of the prodigal son through the eyes of his mother.

As boys, my sweet oldest boy would spend all morning staring at the tree! As I was cleaning up breakfast, he’d be out there walking around the tree.  Later, as I was sweeping the floor, I’d see him standing so close to that tree, you would think he was hugging it!  In the afternoon, while I was working in the garden, he slowly backed away from the tree, never taking his eyes off of it. I’d ask him, “What are you doing ?” 

“Nothing momma, just looking”.   I’d just nod my head and know when he was ready, he’d let me know.  That’s how he has always been, careful, measured, thoughtful.  Meanwhile, as soon as little brother could crawl, he’s has been trying to get up that tree.  And would you know it, as much time as his brother spent looking at it finding the best way up there, he spent his time, falling out of it.  I swear I thought he was going to break his neck.  The day his baby brother got to the top, do you know what he did?  He sulked all day! I told him, if he wants to reach the top, then he needs to start climbing.  He looked at that tree for one more day.  I thought for sure he’d give it a climb just to put his brother in his place as the second born.  But no, not him, he never looked at the tree again, and between you and me, I actually think he avoids it to this day.  Whenever I ask him about climbing trees, he just says he has better things to do with his time.  I don’t know what “better things” he has going on, there is nothing to do here anymore.  That old tree is dead, like so much here.  All that is left is that big ol’ stump.

Since the land has dried up, the tree died and we had to cut it down.  Not too long after that, my baby boy and his dad had a talk sitting right on that stump.  They sat there for a while.  I seemed to not be going too well, but I knew it wasn’t my place to say anything, that just upsets everyone.  I tried to find something to busy myself close by so I could hear the men folk talk.  

Men folk— that gets me every time thinking of my youngest son as a man.   He will always be my little boy.  And look at his life, he makes decisions just as he did as a child, without much thought, and just as quick as Yahweh would allow him.  At first, my husband seemed angry and disappointed as they were talking. But by the end I could see once again he wore his father down.  This is what my husband doesn’t understand, my Baby Boy has learned, listened and seen how his father makes decisions with his brother.  He doesn’t have time for all that waiting, explaining, and pondering.  He wants it now and he has figure out how to best handle his dad.

Then I waited.  I waited and waited and waited.  I wanted him to tell me.  I needed to know what was going on, this was my son too! What does my son want, what did my husband decide?  I was in the dark.  

Darkness!  That’s what I’ll do, I’ll wait until darkness to ask him.  I scrounged around to find some things to cook his favorite dinner.  We don’t have what we used to have, but I traded with the nosey neighbor to get lentils, seasoned with my garlic and onions sauce.  Luckily, it was harvest time so I was able to get some grapes and figs, and I pinched a bit of the wine from the business to put him in a good mood.  This is the place where I’m in charge.  We eat as family every night, this is my favorite part of the day.  They talk amongst themselves, and as I am serving everyone, I can hear what is really going on with them and our family.  We sit and talk for two to three hours every night catching up with one another.

I wait until it is just husband and myself.  In the darkness, I gently begin to ask, “So what does he want? What did you talk about with him at the stump”?  It is there my husband tells me what our son wants.  My mind starts racing with questions.  Can you believe him! Do you see anyone else around here getting a family inheritance who isn’t a first born boy? Does he just assume it is here for the taking?  Does he want my husband to die so he can have his money?  What about me? Who will take care of me when my husband dies?  I hope, I pray that my oldest son won’t forget about me.  I don’t want to have to beg like the women on the street.  And right now, what would I be begging for?  There is not much to eat even to eat let alone give away?  He almost is wishing for all us to be dead!  It seems to me he doesn’t want to be part of our family story any longer.  What have I done?  How have I failed them?  I just can’t watch my son destroy himself.  He hasn’t even considered how this will affect the rest of our family.  What will the aunties and uncles say?  Can you imagine what the villagers will whisper?  Our family has been so respected in this community.  They will say we didn’t raise him right, to respect his elders and give his family honor.  He has shamed us.  I know for sure the nosey neighbor will find someway to find out everything that is going on and gossip our family business everywhere.  I can see her now, mouth hanging open so wide flies could land on her tongue.  Rolling her eyes at what he’s done.  Every village, every Hebrew School, and yes, even every family, has had a problem like this at some point.  Not all of them are as well known as our family, but it happens.  Maybe they didn’t ask for their inheritance but they too have squandered.  Squandered money, or their youth, but of course we will be the ones everyone wants to talk about.  

So this is how I spend my days now.  I don’t have little children to watch and tend over, no crumps to sweep up because we have very little to eat so nothing falls on the floor.  I sit here and just stare at that stump.  I long for the days that my boys bickered and my daughter begged to play with them, I know that seems odd for a mother to wish, but I need my family back together. Not worry about everyone gossiping about us.   All I seem to do now, is worry.  Worry about my son who is too young to be an adult in the world, but too old to be a child at home.  I worry about my oldest son, his bitterness, his silence, his anger.  It is just below the surface.  I am so worried he is a powder keg about to explode.  He is too young to be this angry about life.  And my husband, oh how I worry about him.  How is he going to feel if something does goes wrong? How’s he going feel then.  Can he live with this decision he’s made for our whole family?  I’m conflicted about how I feel about it all.  

Being creative with the biblical story can open up the world of the Bible for students to experience the stories from the inside, especially when you are able to offer entryways for people who may not immediately identify with the characters in the story. This monologue, first performed at Youth 19, offers the perspective of a nearby “helpful” neighbor who lived close to the prodigal son’s family.

I heard yelling and screaming so I came and to see what was going on. I thought someone died, there was such a commotion! But as soon as I seems as soon heard the screams, just as quick quick I heard music and dancing. So what was it, death, a long lost visitor, news of a new baby? It’s not a High Holy Day.

So of course, I wanted to be helpful. That’s how people know me around here, people call me when they need help. Well, sometimes they don’t call, I just think they might need me and I come over to help. So I looked around the kitchen and I found an old dish that I borrowed from their family last harvest season. I dusted it off so that I would be able to return it properly. As I walked over to them, I could see the whole family outside. They were getting a fatted calf ready for slaughter. What in the world was going on? It was then that I saw him.
The sight of him took my breath away. It’s been so long since I’ve seen him in person, I almost didn’t recognize him. I think my mouth fell open with surprised and I could feel the edges of my eyes becoming wet. I realize I wasn’t angry with him this whole time, but I was sad and disappointed he chose to leave us. I was happy to see him, as I thought he was dead by now. He has always played outside of the rules, done his own thing. He never cared what people said about him. I’ve always secretly admired that. When he was younger, I know at times, I would even encourage it. He was such a free spirit. As a boy he would trample my garden looking for a rabbit or whatever he wanted to catch that day. I would come out yelling and hollering at him. He would look over his shoulder impishly, and with a his cute and simple grin.‘I know I’m in trouble, but you know I’m cute so you can’t be too mad at me’. You know the type. Each time, I’d try to be mad at him but I just couldn’t.

I feel like I am partly to blame because if had I really let him have it once in a while, maybe he wouldn’t be as bold as he is now. He has always thought he knew better than the elders. I was willing to overlook the rules and customs in favor of the fondness I had for him. But, when his mother told me he essentially wished his father dead by asking for his inheritance before his death, that was something I could not look past. No, this was not okay. It wasn’t as simple as a trampled vegetable garden. This was trampled hearts, lives, family and most importantly, tradition.

I was shocked years ago when his father let him have that inheritance. It wasn’t just a decision between a father and a son. The whole community was affected. After word got out that he was gone, other parents began to worry that their boys might expect their inheritance. There is a way to do things— the way we’ve always done it. Their family has always been generous. I mean he is a second born, so by law, nothing is his anyway. The fact his father promised him anything was already above and beyond. Then the gall to ask for it upfront, as if his father is already dead? Who does that? To tell his father, “I’m past patiently waitin’ I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation you’ve set out for me”. I just couldn’t believe it. This is unforgivable. What more could he want? He was always provided for, not only was he provided for, he was well provided for. His father is a kind, fair, gentle man, who has loved him no matter what shenanigans he has been apart of. I don’t understand why this man loves his children so much.

Fine, welcome him home. Let him learn his lesson and work for his wages like everyone else. But as I stood there, his father threw his arms around him and sobbed. Telling people to get him a robe, a ring, and to kill the calf? No, no, no, it’s just too much. He sees me, wipes the tears out of his eyes, walks over to me and wipes the tears out of mine. I can see in his walk, his eyes, there is something different about him. He apologizes to me. To me? Why to me? I’m not his mother, I just happened to be returning this dish. He gives me a look, in a way where more is exchanged than words. No words are needed.

I see it. I know what it is. I am finally able to put my finger on it. He has become a man. He isn’t keeping a log of his family’s mistakes and missteps. There is no list of how his father has wronged him, or what his mother did wrong. On this day, he is has claimed his place in life. He has taken responsibly for the ways he has fallen short. I know this experience has changed him.

His father takes my other hand and says, “Come eat with us, the table has been set, and there is always more room”. I begin to walk in, but something stops me. Since he’s been gone, I’ve said so many bad things about him to the other women at the market, and I haven’t stopped them from going on and on about his shortcomings. How can I eat at the same table with him when so much has been said? If I enjoy this feast with the family does it mean I am welcoming him back into my life as well? What people will say? Am I willing to truly forgive him and break bread with him? I can tell he is different, but am I willing to be changed because of my relationship to who he is now. Should I set aside my bitter pride and go to the party after all? If I am willing to accept this invitation, then I am changed to.