by Sheila Velazquez
I guess I first need to tell you how I acquired Jesus. In my retirement I have developed some new hobbies to fill my days, one of them being going to tag, yard, and garage sales, something I seldom did when my life was busier. I have resold a wide variety of items and gotten pretty good at buying a $.50 doodad and selling it for $10 online. It’s not a lot of money, but I it keeps me sharp and out of trouble.
I had no plans to tag sale on the Saturday I found Jesus. It was a beautiful autumn morning, and I had extra time, so when I saw a sign tacked to the tree shading a beautiful green lawn, I pulled up and headed toward the displays on tables and on blankets spread out across the grass. Jesus was on one of the blankets. Affixed to a nearly two-foot-long cross, he was impressive. I wondered why someone would sell their Jesus. Had they lost their faith? I know I had, although as a young Irish-Catholic child, my great aunt, Sister Marie Gertrude, made sure that I was rich with Catholic rosaries, wall crucifixes, Latin missals, and scapulars. It has been years since I kept any such religiosities, having long ago given them to others who value their special powers.
I lifted Jesus from the fleece blanket and was surprised at the weight of the piece. The wood was solid, and the corpus was either copper clad or solid copper. The couple holding the sale approached me, and I repeated the line I always asked when I found an item that was hard to put a value on. “What can you tell me about this?”
The wife offered that it had belonged to her parents and that it had hung over their bed for at least sixty-five years. They had immigrated from Europe, and Jesus might have been even older than that. I stared at Christ’s mournful face. How much of this family have you witnessed, I wondered. How many loving moments, marital fights, sick children kept close, maybe beloved pets who slept under your care. It was too much to comprehend. How could they let it go? I offered five dollars, and they accepted it. I bought a few other things and left.
I brought Jesus home but didn’t know where to put him. Obviously, he should be hung on a wall, so I picked a spot that already had a considerable nail hole, and hung him in the kitchenette. He looked out of place, but I figured he’d sell quickly, since he was a very nice Jesus. He likely wouldn’t be watching me cook for very long. After numerous queries from friends and relatives about both my placement of the cross and my possible return to the fold, I moved Jesus to a bin of yarn, where he could relax on my knitting stash, a mound of alpaca and wool.
One of my biggest challenges is scrounging appropriate boxes to accommodate shipments that require them. Obviously, Jesus would need a good, sturdy box. While waiting for winter maintenance to be performed on my car, I asked the manager of the parts department if they had any boxes that were about two feet across. He looked around until he found one that held a large air filter, removed the filter, and gave me the box. It was perfect.
I wasn’t sure if the holidays would bring more sales, but they did pick up on Black Friday. By Monday morning, I had sold some mittens, a pair of vintage earrings, a WWII paratrooper garrison cap, and a couple of half-pint glass school milk bottles from a bygone era. Then I sold Jesus. Even though I wanted him gone, I felt a sudden panic. I pulled out the tub of yarn, removed the lid, and gazed at him contentedly lying on the colorful pile of yarn. He looked so peaceful there.
But he had been sold, and I had to pack him up and ship him off to a small town in upper New York State. I wondered about the buyer and his plans for the Savior. Had he found Jesus? Was the crucifix to be a gift for someone he felt needed his protection? Stop it, I thought to myself. Just figure out how to pack him up safely.
From rigid foam packing material that had surrounded a small appliance I cut pieces to encase the corpus and the ends of the cross. When all were tightly wrapped with packing tape, I placed Jesus in the box filled with crumpled up pages from the sports and arts and leisure sections of the newspaper. I added the invoice with a handwritten note that thanked the buyer for the order and wished him a happy holiday. Then Jesus and I drove to the post office.
Sheila Velazquez is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in more than 100 print newspapers and magazines, including Grit, New Woman, the Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, the San Antonio Express-News and Bay Area Parent. Her awards include two from the Society of Professional Journalists for a syndicated column. Sheila has contributed to online websites, including commondreams.org and dissidentvoice.org. She served as contributing editor of Organic Producer magazine and wrote biographical material for reference collections that include “Contemporary Authors,” the “Encyclopedia of International Biography” and “Notable Sports Figures.” Feel free to send her an e-mail.