Melons

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18 NIV)

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Y’shua paused on the stairs,
just where his head would have crested the roof line
to come in view of his parents in the summer
kitchen on the roof of the house.

Suddenly he was a boy again,
peeking over the stair top,
eavesdropping on his parents,
fascinated by this mystery that was adulthood.

Joseph sat straddle on a bench,
hair and beard still dripping from his
ritual washing before the evening meal.

Mary shaped the flat bread and tended
it on a stone at the edge of the fire,
shifting with the lazy evening breeze to keep,
as best she could, from both smoke and heat.

“What about Hiram the tanner across the way,
he has daughters the right age,
                        have you spoken to him?”

“Ha!” Joseph bent and took a pebble from the rooftop
(how did they keep getting up here?)
to toss hand to hand as he talked:
“To him and four others in the past week.”

The pebble arched higher and
higher and his arms stretched,
moving faster and faster,
testing the limits of his balance,
until he caught it and held it in his hand,
as he turned to look at Mary.

“They’ve all heard what happened with Rubin’s Sarah,
how he talked her half to death with his coming
kingdom until she went flying in tears to her mother;
how he turned Rubin’s kitchen into a scripture
debate society whenever he came,
until, to hear Rubin tell it, there was no room
for the ordinary business of being a family;
how he camped in Rubin’s shop day after day
with all the apprentices gathered about him,
Rubin’s, and everyone else’s all along the street,
until the Rabbi came himself and asked Rubin
if he was planning to open a synagogue of his own.”

He put the pebble carefully on the bench
between his legs and turned it,
as though looking for its best face.
“I tell you, none of them will have him,
not with his God mindedness and
his constant talk of God his father.
It frightens them.”

He picked the pebble up again
and rolled it in his open palm.
“Oh, they say otherwise…
they say they worry he’ll never make a living,
that my shop will not survive me in his hands,
and then, in the next breath,
ask for his work when anything
new must be made. It makes no sense,
but there it is.”

Mary pushed her hair straight back
from her forehead with a distracted hand.
“Then what will we do? Who will he marry?
He must marry. He’s seventeen already.
The relatives have begun sending suggestions
               from Capernaum,
               Sixteen year old girls, eighteen even,
smelling of fish every one of them,
as though Y’shua needed their leavings.”

“They mean well.”
Joseph leaned over and stole a
piece of bread from the stone,
blowing both it and his fingers before tearing it,
putting a piece to his mouth and chewing.
“And they don’t know what it’s like
to live with him, do they?
I can’t say I always understand it myself.”

He swallowed and tore the bread again.
“And honestly, Mary, I don’t know if I could inflict him,
as he is, on another family.
I don’t know if it would be fair to the girl,
to the father, and think of his poor mother-in-law,
always having to mind her tongue,
always with his eye upon her, always
asking her to measure herself for God’s kingdom.
We’re used to it, and it’s not easy for any of us.”

“But he would make such a good father.”
Mary sank back on her heals and
gazed out over the rooftops of the neighbors.

“You’ve seen how the children are always
around him, following him everywhere;
how he is always telling them stories,
picking them up, making them toys,
how they love him.”

Joseph chuckled and waved the bread in his hand.
“Oh, and he’d make a splendid shepherd too,
now that the sheep have learned his voice.
You should see how they cluster
at his side of the fold when he passes,
though he has been too old to go
out with them for more than three years.
That doesn’t mean he is going to keep sheep, Mary.
This is Y’shua we are talking about.
He will do what he thinks ‘his father’
wants him to, and I don’t mean me!”

“I worry…” Mary caught Joseph’s eye and held it.
“He has no friends. Fellows. Companions.
Oh yes. I see them. Followers even.
That crowd would push over a cart of melons
just to see the smash, but he has
no one he can talk to. He is so alone.”

“There is always God…” said Joseph,
“his Father is surely with him,
and I worry more about the synagogue
getting pushed over than a cart of melons
with that crowd, but they are just young,
                                                        as is he.”

Joseph threw the pebble over the roof edge,
and in doing, saw Y’shua there in the stair.
He winked and drew Y’shua up
to the roof with a hook of his head.

“Your mother and I were just discussing your well-being.
She’d like to marry you off before you’re too old to father children.”

Y’shua grinned. “And how old were you when you married, father?”

Joseph laughed. “Ah, but that was different.
I was waiting for the perfect woman,
and it took them that long to offer your mother.”

Suddenly serious, too serious Rubin’s Sarah would say,
Y’shua sank down next to the bench
and drew in dust at his feet.
“Honestly, father, I’ll marry the first girl
who will really have me, all of me,
who will go where I have to go,
and do what I have to do,
who knows God as her one Father
and knows no fear.”

“Well, that’s it then,”
Mary slapped the bread down hard on the stone,
“there will never be a woman good enough for you!”

“Not unless God gives me one.”
He went and took his mother by the elbow,
brushed her cheek with a kiss,
bent and took a stack of bread
from the fire’s edge where it warmed.
“I’ll be back.”

“But where are you going? It’s supper time.”
Mary reached to catch him,
and Joseph put out a hand to still her.

“Oh, I don’t know.
Maybe I’ll find a cart of melons to push over,
just to see the splash.”

And he left. Humming a psalm.

Mary sank back to her heals.

Joseph took up another pebble.
“No one ever said it would be easy
to be the mother of the son of God, Mary.
Especially at his age.
Maybe we have it easier than we might expect.
At least we know the melons are really safe
and I have to believe the synagogue
can take care of itself.”

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