It was frightening, losing him like that.
We were a day out of town. He hadn’t been with us, but this was nothing unusual. Traveling on foot with family, you expect the children to migrate from aunt to uncle and back to aunt.
But on the second day, we all gathered together, and he wasn’t with any of them.
That night was a strangled darkness of upset faces and rudely awakened neighbors as we searched for him. It wasn’t until the sun’s pale rays rose that we realized he wasn’t with us – that he had never left the city.
A bleary day lingered, stretching on as we retraced our steps. A confusing day in half-remembered city streets, the marketpeople crying out for us to buy, buy buy! Finally, we found the crowd outside the Temple, gathered, sitting and listening to our missing boy. Relief – and anger – flooded my heart as I saw him, rushing forward to sweep him into my arms.
“Son, son, we missed you! We’ve been searching all over for you!”
“Why did you search?” he answered. “Did you not know I would be at my father’s house?”
The crowd laughed, but neither of us did. My husband turned pale, as he always did when such things were said, gripping his staff more tightly. I stared at my son. His face had an expression I couldn’t recognize; it stunned me inside.
Sometimes I nearly forget about the angel – that half-dreamt shape. Anymore, I often forget about the early visitors as well – the gold, frankincense and myrhh are all long gone, sold to help support me after Joseph died.
His face that day, though. That unreadable, almost unworldly expression reminds me more than any mere earthly gift possibly could.