The St. Joseph Doll

Is it destiny, fate, or something else? When it became clear that my husband’s parents were going to need more care, it just made sense to add on to our house and share space. Our County’s zoning department had other plans. We jumped through the hoops. We played by the rules. New drainfield. Move the well five feet to the right, but no, we could not increase the size of our home to include another bedroom, so onward and upward, we decided to buy a house together with the in-laws, rent out what we have and live happily-ever-after, just the better half and myself, two resistant teenagers, a hundred pound dog, a psychotic cat, five chickens, and the in-laws! Easy peasy.

The housing market is depressed right now. It’s a buyer’s market, I keep hearing that term, “buyer’s market”, but no one told the sellers of the homes we looked at and loved. But I play dirty. I can claim atheism ‘til the cows come home, but when my back’s to the wall, I’m not above calling in the big guns – prayer, karma, whatever it takes.

My mother-in-law, (my sweet, Catholic mother-in-law,) said we should bury a St. Joseph doll at the house we were trying to sell, (their house in Pennsylvania,) and another at the house we wanted to buy, (a beautiful Victorian house in a highly-sought-after downtown neighborhood, in need of elbow grease, new heating, wiring, and plumbing.) In case you didn’t know, St. Joseph is the patron saint over house hunting, or building, or something like that, so on our way out of town after a visit to the in-laws’ home in Western Pennsylvania, we drove past the four Catholic churches within a 2/10 mile radius and pulled into the Catholic mission store. I had never been in a Catholic mission store before. Heck, I had only been to mass a couple of times and each time it was like stepping into a movie already in progress, that everyone else in the theater had seen a hundred times before. They all knew the dialogue and I was clueless. The mission store had that same air of mystery. They sold thorny crowned Jesuses. Heck, I think my own Baptist Grandma had one of those hanging somewhere in the house, but this store had good stuff too! There were little babies looking all sweet and plump. They had St. Francis feeding birds out of the palm of his hands and beautiful Madonna’s. As hoped for, they had St. Joseph too, his little hammer in his hand to indicate his profession. And who could beat the price?! Two dollars for two cute little St. Joseph dolls, each looking like large, white, chess pieces.

So we spun the car around, drove back the 2/10 mile to the in-laws house and planted one in the stony, frozen ground there, then drove two-hundred, fifty miles back home and under the cover of dark, trespassed on the dream property to plant the little twin St. Joseph with his white gleaming grip, at the base of the porch at our dream home. The kids loved this maneuver! There we were, giggling, digging up someone else’s yard, at night, with occupied homes on either side of us. There was the thrill of - just the naughtiness of it all, the potential for being arrested! But there was also my gnawing guilty conscience. It wasn’t about trespassing or digging up some homeowner’s flower bed. It was the whole, taking advantage of St. Joseph thing. We had to do this with some degree of dignity. We couldn’t just shove the little guy in the dirt and hope for it to work, so I shushed the kids, dug up St. Joseph, turned him so his little feet faced east, then re-buried him with a degree of respect.

It seems I wasn’t all wrong. When I called my mother-in-law later that night, she began the conversation with, “when you bury the St. Joseph, he has to be head down at the house you want to buy, and head up at the house you want to sell,” or vice-versa. Crap. Well, I did not go back to re-bury him. I knew I had already broken so many rules, the good Karma had to be all used up. And serves me right, we did not get that house. All four thousand beautiful Victorian square feet sold to some single lady who will tend her flowers and unearth St. Joseph and wonder about the child who left their little toy construction worker buried in the dirt.

We did eventually find a home. It was not the dream home. It’s big. It’s okay. It’s sufficient, with wheelchair accessibility on the ground floor, versus the five wide steps leading to the front porch of the Victorian. The ground floor is all on one level, as opposed to the quirky little step down to the Victorian kitchen with its twelve foot ceilings at the dream home. This house has wall-to-wall carpeting which is practical for people shuffling with walkers and canes, unlike the hardwood floors that would have gleamed after hours of sanding and re-finishing at the other house.

We moved in two weekends ago and the in-laws moved down last weekend. But before they arrived, we tried to make it feel as if they were coming home. The planters outside were filled with weeds in a home that was neglected and on the market for more than a year. It’s fall, so purple chrysanthemums in the middle, a yellow grass in the back and a beautiful green vine in the front seemed like the perfect combination. The day the in-laws were to arrive, I drove to the home improvement store and found the perfect combination of plants.

And I knew immediately, we must be home. As I plunged my hand into the planter, to make a hole for the new plantings, I pulled out something hard. I almost dropped it, because it was white and dirt covered, like it might possibly be some little rodent skeleton, or something else unsavory. But no, it wasn’t anything unsavory. It was a little St. Joseph doll. This one was still in his little plastic sleeve, so that when I pulled him out, he was crisp and white and clean. And you know what? I think his little feet just might have been facing east. :)


  1. What an amazing story and so well written. I hung on your every word. Loved it.

  2. This is really interesting take on the concept. I never thought of it that way. I came across this site recently which I think it will be a great use of new ideas and informations.

    St Joseph For Selling Home


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