They arrived in the baking heat of noon, Mary drooping and Joseph frantic with worry over her They knocked at our door because we were their nearest kin in the town. Our home was already bursting at the seams, but we wanted to show our best hospitality, and we put them in the only space we had left – the work room which was set a step above the space for the animals to be gathered at night.
As she recovered, we got to know them. Mary was so intense, so focused; clever, witty, quick thinking, impulsive.
But it is Joseph who sticks most in my mind. Joseph was quiet, steady, endlessly patient, both with his wife and the baby. The quietness hid a huge depth of love. I’ve never seen a young father more passionately intense about his son. I remember him talking deep into the night, while Mary slept, as I rocked the child to keep him from waking his mother.
‘I will teach him all I know of building. Of corner stones, and key stones, and of earth turned to rock by the sun. How to fit door frames and to build hinges. How to craft wood, and to smooth it to a satin. I will show him the places I played as a child, and the shady nooks, and the cold vast skies of night. I will teach him how to skim a stone, and make a whistle or a flute,’ said Joseph, ‘but I want more for this child. I will teach all I know of the Law – and then find him good teachers for the rest.’ I thought he would teach the child a more valuable lesson. I thought he would teach how deep a father could love.