Note: “Wanderers” can also be found in my book “My Best Christmas and other stories of the season” at Amazon.com.
Later, when they got together and talked they would wonder. Not so much wonder about how the little one found its way to that lonely nativity. That they would never know. Not even to wonder about what kind of desperate person would abandon such a precious child on such a wicked night. They would realize the futility of trying to answer questions that, for them, were unanswerable. So they would set aside their speculations and judgements, never to know the whole story.
For them, the wonder and the wondering came when they considered how they, the wanderers, all desperately needing something that night, came together at that place and that time. All helpless in their own way. All giving to each other a glimmer of hope that dark, dark night and for the days to come.
Ruby felt a warm presence, as if a flood of warmth was being released to thaw the frozen scene in front of her, to unlock its meaning.
“Ruby,” She heard the storyteller call her name. “Ruby, this is your story. And my story and your grandfather’s, and Harry’s… and your mother’s.” The voice, the storyteller, was Betty…
“Do you see it, Ruby?” said Betty, quietly. She wrapped her arm around the child. “Do you get it?” Betty walked Ruby back away from the mural. “Look again.” The swirls of color that played around the edges of the mural and danced with each other as if one could not exist without the other. Once again Ruby was being drawn in for another look. The coldness of the scene warmed as they took a step forward, as a glimmer of understanding dawned in the twelve year old’s mind.
“Do you see it?” Thomas said as he walked up to the pair. He took Betty’s hand and gave it a squeeze. He sensed that the fog of the early morning was clearing from Ruby’s brain. They took one step closer to the mural, then another. Ruby’s eyes raked the painting, examining every square inch again, looking for the clue to the mystery that, it seemed to her, everyone else knew. Yet, she was still in the dark.
She probed the dark corners of the stable. She was hooked and wanted to know what Betty and Grampa already knew. She wondered about the blurred images of the shepherds, animals and the parents of the child in the manger. What was that about? She looked again at the light hanging from the pole standing over the nativity scene. Its light was dispersed shining on an old wreck of a minivan hung up on a pile of snow.
What was artist Betty trying to show? There was something being said, but something Ruby was not seeing. And, probably for the first time she would admit that she wanted to know more.