Sunday, March 7, 2010

JOSEPH & MARY

Each December we dig into our Christmas closet and decide what decorating mood we are in this year. Dave would laugh at me using the word “we” in this context. I am customarily the decorator, and he is the designated lugger. I am such a sentimentalist that I keep everything (this does not apply solely to Christmas items). The décor will change at our house from year to year. A few things, however, are pretty constant: we will have a live tree we bought from Robinsons Tree Farm, all fresh aromatic. Dave will string colored lights in and out of the branches, the lights that few people use any more but which were the joy of my childhood. We will swoop real mercury glass beads from branch to branch. Colorful glass bulbs from generations past will be hung three or four deep on every branch, along with ornaments from our family’s past, along with baby shoes hung with ribbon, along with tickets from meaningful concerts either our children performed in or I performed in. There will be a long hammered nail tied with a red ribbon hung deep-in, near the trunk…a gift from Gram to remind us of what that Baby became and what he did for us. We will apply, strand by strand, old lead icicles, which will reflect the colorful lights as well as the flickering fire in the fireplace; and when the tree comes down after Epiphany we will remove those icicles one at a time so we can re-use them next year. We will hang greenery over the arched bay windows, and put a candle in each windowsill. Wreaths of dangling cedar will hang in each of the front windows, with red bows that lilt in the winter breezes. I will arrange my large collection of Santa’s on the rock fireplace mantle. And from that mantle will hang long skinny knitted stockings like our great grandparents wore. One stocking, however, will seem out of place among the others. It is much larger, and a bright Christmas red, with the letters K,A, T, I, E strewn across the white trim at the top. This is the stocking in which be snuggled our new baby, Kate when we brought her home from the hospital on Christmas Eve 1983. Our blessed Christmas child!

There will always be a tall wooden Santa Claus, the one I purchased at the Sundance Outlet after Christmas about 15 years ago. He cheerily holds stacks of CD’s in our entry hall. We become a retail venue at Christmas time. I used to sell my CDs in stores, like Deseret Book, but I realized that few people bought them if they had not heard them, so I decided to just sell them myself through the internet mostly (www.coriconnors.com) and at the front door. The last few years I have sold them from the front porch milk box. It’s a beautiful piece of Americana, a matter of mutual trust: Take what you want and leave a check in the box. It works really well. I should have named my label Milk Box Records. The Santa in the entry hall always has a good stash if the milk box becomes empty.
One other item is always part of our Christmas décor. It is a large Italian sculpture I bought at the 5 Hour Store years ago: a figure of Joseph the carpenter standing with his saw in one hand and his arm around his young son, Jesus. The sculpture sits on the old Masonic altar in the family room. I usually set it atop a bed of rope cedar, the little fans of green swoop up over their sandal-clad feet of the boy Jesus, sort of foreshadowing the palms that would be laid at the feet of the man-Jesus years later.

I love this sculpture. They both appear so calm; so comfortable with each other. It feels like peace.

I have felt a particular tenderness toward Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus. I am touched that he would accept the call. His was a heavy burden to bear. It wasn’t his child. It wasn’t his child. And yet he allowed himself to be the father. I have always loved and respected Mary, and revere her as we all should. But it took me watching my husband accept and embrace the burden of fatherhood for me to know what a beautiful man Joseph must have been. There isn’t much written about him, at least that I could find. So when a church Relief Society teacher asked if I could do a song about Joseph and Mary, I struggled to find something. I do not read music, so looking through sheet music was not going to work for me. Maybe that’s why I ended up being a songwriter.

I was in my early twenties when I wrote this song, and at the time I did not think of myself as a singer. So I wrote it, then asked the two real singers in our church to perform it. Dave Thomas and Gailyn Volcansek sang it just beautifully. I thought that would be the end of it. The song had filled the measure of its creation.

I don’t recall when Dave and I first sang this song together. We sure have done it a lot though. Every time I look into his eyes and see him feeling the fullness of his love, as if he really was Joseph and I was Mary. I’ve sung the song many times with other people as well, but it is never the same. This song is meant to be sung by husband and wife. At least so I thought.

I have been invited many times to go hear other people sing this song as well. I am especially touched when my children sing it. The first time I was asked to come hear a choir sing it I thought, “Are you kidding? This song is an intimate duet. It will never work with a choir.” But I sat there and wept at how lovely it sounded; at how tenderly the men sang their part; at the emotion flowing from some of the men’s eyes as they sang.

“I want to take care of you,” their eyes said, “but I cannot. Please God, help me take care of her.”

I was touched by the sweetness of the women, offering reassurance… “Joseph, this will do…. It’s even better here because it is pure and free from the touch of human hands….only fresh hay and good clean dirt and the gentle bray of our faithful donkey. Really, it’s fine. Come, help me now.”

I have born four children with my husband at my side. I’ve born them without the aid of pain killers. I have grasped my husband’s hand and felt him clasping mine with all his might, wishing he could infuse his strength into me. Both of us in tears, both of us overcome with the sacredness of the process. Both overwhelmed with the intensity of love that filled that space and time. I cannot recall a moment in my human existence when I have felt more divine as when my firstborn son sprung from within and touched the light of this earth. He bore me into motherhood, as Jesus did Mary.

Joseph and Mary is not the most well-written song. It only has four chords, and they repeat predictably. When I wrote it I had to use a tape recorder to hear what the Joseph part sounded like so the Mary part could overlap pleasingly. (What an interesting experiment that was.) It is not a masterpiece of music composition, or of lyric for that matter. But somehow it touches me, and that’s enough. It draws me closer to Dave every time we sing it. Maybe it’s an example of something being greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe it’s just my heart pretending how Mary might have felt, and how Joseph might have felt, and loving them all the more because I can imagine what they did.

I promise (myself, mostly) to have sheet music for this song available for my Christmas concerts this coming Thanksgiving weekend. (There now…it’s in print…no backing out!) I will thank the Lord if I am blessed, one more year, to have the man I love sing this song with me.

Joseph and Mary

Dear Lord, hear this prayer
The child comes soon
She is tired and ready
Yet no one has a room
Guide my feet dear God
I have given it my all
She deserves more than I have
She deserves more than a stall

Joseph, this will do
I don’t need a quilted bed
Just a gentle word from you
And a place to lay my head
It is good that we are here
Where no human hands defiled
Smooth the hay and let me lie
And welcome in the child

Tag: To welcome in the child
You can hear Dave and me singing this song by scrolling down to the music box with songs from the album SLEEPY LITTLE TOWN. Click on the song Joseph and Mary.

7 comments:

  1. Your auntie libby is right.

    You will have to come see our little tree next Yule. And I want to see yours. Deal?

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  2. I think you are wrong, it is a masterpiece- if it touches hearts and brings the spirit- it is a masterpiece.

    FYI- We were listening to your CD in the car on the way to church today and Jack never usually listens to my music, usually just zones or talks to himself and asks if he can watch movies. He piped up from the back seat, "Mommers, why do the people not let her have ice cream for dinner?" I didn't quite know what to say ;)

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  3. Would you be able to post what chords were used in this song?

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    Replies
    1. Snd me your email and I'll send the chords to Joseph and Mary. Cori@coriconnors.com

      Delete
  4. could you email me the chords please patsyy99@yahoo.com
    to joseph and mary

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love this song and would like to learn to play it. Any chance I could get the chords also? cameronrichins@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete