When our friend Roxie — a former Austin farm stand customer who now lives in Washington state — found out John and I were attempting to sell our farm in order to move up there, she and her husband Kim emailed us a load of valuable information. That, of course, opened the floodgates for me to pester them relentlessly with additional questions, the answers to which were always graciously forthcoming. They’re fine folks.
Roxie even went so far as to offer me her plastic statue of St. Joseph.
This photo is a reenactment from the Amazon.com site, not her actual statue. While I appreciated the gesture, I saw no need for her to put the thing in the mail. I didn’t know we’d soon be visiting her in person.
You know what a St. Joseph statue is supposed to do, right? If you’re trying to sell your home, you bury the little Saint in the ground — upside down — facing your house and he gets you a buyer. According to legend (and the internet) this tradition goes back to what is called ‘the degradation of the saints.’ They threatened the saints by burying them while saying, “I will keep you with your head down in the dirt until you sell my house for me.”
Seems to me that wouldn’t make ol’ St. Joe all that fond of you. It might in fact cause him to be a little cranky and less eager to assist, which is probably why in more recent history the part about threats has changed instead to praying to Joseph’s good will for help with a fast, smooth and profitable sale. You know what they say: you catch more flies with honey.
As it happened, when John and I traveled to Washington at the end of January we did get the opportunity to visit Roxie and Kim. We spent a lovely day with them as we toured their corner of that beautiful state, and ended up at their home overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. While there, Roxie brought out her St. Joseph statue for us.
Despite our good intentions, we didn’t bury the statue immediately upon our return. I left it out on the counter as a reminder for a short while, but when people started coming to look at the house I tucked it in a drawer, out of sight from any potential buyers.
I mean, we didn’t know any of these people. A particularly pragmatic couple might have noticed the little statue and thought we were superstitious weirdos. It’s best to keep things as nondescript as possible when selling a home anyway. Already, our real estate broker had told us to take down any knick-knacks, family photos, etc., that might distract the buyer. We wanted people to see it as their house, not ours.
Poor St. Joseph remained sequestered in that drawer through four or five house showings. (Though I can’t imagine he was wishing he was buried upside down instead.) Every time I reached for an Altoid, I was reminded of him. And every time, I’d close the drawer and promise myself we’d perform a decent burial soon. Very soon.
Then we were presented with a contract. A young family who have been searching for a farm for nearly a year loved this place. They even wanted to keep it as Angel Valley Farm, which thrilled us to no end. After only minor negotiations, we accepted their offer. St. Joseph had been drawer-bound barely over two weeks.
This brings up what I see as an extremely valid query: Is it truly necessary to bury the poor fella in the dirt — upside down, at that — in order for him to want to help with the house sale? Or could it be that he was so enjoying his cozy gig in the Altoids drawer that he expedited the sale process to avoid entombment?
I’m wondering, too, whether the number of Altoids left inside the tin made a difference.
When we signed off on the contract, there were nine.
We still have the house inspection results to agree upon, a flood zone survey to complete and a septic tank inspection to pass. We’re optimistic about all those things, but until they’re behind us, we won’t know for sure that the sale will go as scheduled.
To be safe, I’m not changing the number of Altoids in that tin. Until we sign on the dotted line at the title company, we’ll simply have to forego minty fresh breath. It seems a small sacrifice (and our apologies in advance to anyone who gets too close).
There’s nothing weird or superstitious about that, right?