30 minutes ago
Monday, December 20, 2010
Christmas With Joseph
It was the early 1980’s and an atmospheric Christmas Eve Blizzard was swirling through northern Arizona. My newly acquired husband and I drove from our home in Mesa into a winter wonderland. We were spending the holiday with my Mom and Dad and the rest of my ten brothers and sisters still at home.
There were wood fires burning, and good baking smells filled the house. Gifts were being wrapped in the one bedroom with a door that locked ( ”Get out and close the door you peeping Tom!”) and presents were being squeezed, shaken and evaluated for weight under the Christmas tree. The youngest, brother and sister were tearing through the house at top speed and volume, screaming that they saw elves every time they heard a bell jingle. Older brothers obliged by furtively ringing bells at every opportunity.
Finally, chores were done and the Christmas Eve feast was almost ready. Through the steamed up front window, someone noticed the hitchhiker that was still standing in the front of the house at the edge of the highway leading out of town. Living in a house on the highway had brought many strangers to our home over the years. Inviting a hitchhiker to dinner was second nature to my dad. He put on a coat and headed outside.
Dad came in a few minutes later with a lanky man he introduced as Joseph. Joseph brushed the snow off his long dark hair and shoulders and greeted each of us, looking bewildered at the horde of children. He kept shaking his head and saying, “Wow!” He joined us for dinner at the long pine table, crowding in on the benches alongside us.
As food was passed and eaten, questions were asked and answered on both sides. He soon found out we were Mormons, and absorbed a little doctrine along with his mashed potatoes and gravy. He enthusiastically told us about his personal quest: he was headed to Four Corners--to the vortex in search of the bridegroom!”
It was our turn to say wow. This was a man on a spiritual mission of his own! He turned his head from one person to another as we ate and talked, enjoying the noisy conversation, nodding amiably. After dessert he was determined to press forward and said his goodbyes, going out to the edge of the driveway and sticking his thumb out once more. We watched him through the windows and several cars stopped. Each time he would lean in the window for a few minutes, and then straighten up and the car or truck would move on.
After a half hour or so he knocked on the door again. We opened it and found Joseph with his arms laden with plates of goodies, a layer of snow on his head. There had been no ride to Four Corners, but local people had stopped to check on him, and share a treat on their rounds to friends and neighbors. He shook his head and said, “This place is crazy, man.”
He agreed to spend the night and participated in our Christmas Eve program, watching the Nativity story acted out and singing songs with us. When the kids were packed off to bed, Joseph stretched out on the couch with a blanket and pillow. He was awoken at 3:00 a.m. by my brothers, who made sure they got the milking done very early, so they wouldn’t have to delay the opening of presents. They told him to go back to sleep for a few short hours, because no one slept in past 6:00 on Christmas morning.
There were a few presents for Joseph under the tree that morning, warm socks, and other items rounded up, or reapportioned. He seemed dazed by the early hour and the wild frenzy that only Santa Claus coming through can bring.
He caught a ride later that day and we never saw him again. But our family still remembers the
Christmas that Joseph came to stay at our family's Inn.