My parents both came from a rural area in a neighboring state. As a family, we often returned to the area to visit since many of our relatives remained there. The home and 40 acre farm that had belonged to my paternal grandparents stayed in the family, although the house itself was left more or less vacant for years. My uncle and his brood lived right down the road and were essentially the “next door neighbor” to the farm although next door was separated by some distance, which was either a short drive or a medium walk.
At some point, my uncle procured Mary and Joseph statues from his church. I don’t mean he stole them; the church must have given them away. I don’t remember a baby Jesus being part of this package, although it’s been a long time and living elsewhere, I had limited observation of the affair. I did, however, see Mary and Joseph up close and personal over a period of years. First, they turned up in the living room of the farm house (I guess my uncle didn’t want them at his house? Not sure.). When I was still a kid and our family visited, we sometimes stayed in the vacant house (which we called The Old House), and having Mary and Joseph there too scared the bejeepers out of me. I found life-size, or near life-size statues in this case, just creepy. To this day, I tend to sidle up to statues and stare intently, waiting for sign of movement, an eye blink or something. At any rate, I hastily moved past the living room when Mary and Joseph were in residence.
On a later visit, Mary and Joseph were now on the stone front porch of the house. I guess they decided to take in the air, a change of scenery. There was a story, told by one of my cousins who lived down the road, about a friend of hers commenting on the strange people that she always saw on the front porch. There was enough of a distance between the porch and the road that surely they could have been mistaken for the real thing.
By the time I entered my teens, Mary and Joseph had migrated from the porch to the property proper. They were looking a little worse for their advanced age and what with roughing it in the great outdoors. Joseph’s ceramic hand had broken off so that his raised appendage was now just wire (I hadn’t known that such statues were built around wire frames till I saw that). Joseph looked a bit like a berobed Captain Hook. The farm grounds were the site of our annual summertime family reunions. These reunions were noted for their marked consumption of keg beer. Somebody stuck an empty on Joseph’s wire hand. It was not me.
There was a long-abandoned, decrepit 2-story house on the property that was referred to as “the shack”. It was abandoned far more completely than the main house. There were no doors and windows; looking through the front door – or the opening where a door might have been – you could see clean out the back side to the fields behind it. The last time I saw Mary and Joseph they were far from the main house and appeared to be heading in the direction of the shack. I happened upon them in tall grass. Mary was upright but Joseph, beer can at his side, was now lying on the ground. Oh, I wished I had a camera. It looked like they were headed home, with Mary trying unsuccessfully to rouse drunken Joseph off the ground after a late night.