Editors Note: This is Part 2 in a 3-part Christmas story by Monique Nagel. You can catch up on part 1 here. Look for Part 3 coming soon.
We drove back to the church together. I never wanted to see my car again and just left it in the parking lot at Walmart (though I knew I would have to go back and get it sooner or later). Jim’s car was so nice and warm! He gave me a box of tissues and I wiped my face and blew my nose.
“So Joey,” he said, “do you have a winter coat?”
“Yes sir, it’s um, well no. I wrapped the baby in it and it was all wet and gross. I guess they threw it out.” I stared at my hands.
“That’s okay, that’s fine. You know I might have an extra, we had a clothing drive here just last weekend and everything isn’t gone yet. We’ll take a look when we get there.” “That’d be great.” I answered.
“Ah here we are now,” Jim said as he pulled right up to the front door. I followed him up the steps slowly. What if he wanted me to stay? What if he called the cops? I still couldn’t raise the baby myself. We reached the door and Jim turned to me.
“You still with me son?” He smiled and opened the door (I was glad he didn’t ask how I had gotten in). The church was dark and quiet. “Now, where is this baby boy?” He turned on the lights.
I moved around him and went to the pew I had put the baby on. The car seat was gone! On the seat was one of those little blankets that had been in the baby bag that Lancaster General Hospital had given to me. Did I put it on another pew and forgot? I know I was upset, but I wouldn’t forget that would I? I felt the blood drain from my face.
“It’s not here.” I lifted the blanket and brought it to Jim. “The baby’s not there.” I dropped the blanket in his hands checked the next couple of pews for the little grey car seat and green baby bag.
“Are you sure you left him in this church?” Jim asked. I pointed to the blanket in his hand.
“Yes I left him in this church! That blanket was in his baby bag, man. I know I saw it there. I haven’t been gone 10 minutes, where could he be?” I got down on the floor and looked under all of the pews. He hadn’t fallen off the seat somehow. The car seat simply wasn’t there. I stopped and looked at Jim. “How can he be gone?”
Poor Jim looked as distressed as I did.
“Let’s check the rest of the church.” Jim said.
I took off running down the left side of the church while he walked down the right. A door on the left opened up to a step-down that led to a basement. I jumped down the steps and landed at a run. Down the hall I went, checking every room I could get into. One door was locked and I kicked it as hard as I could. The wood splintered around the lock and the door slammed open on a supply closet, no baby.
“What’s going on here now?” Jim came down the steps. “Now I could have opened that for you Joey. Let’s calm down a little here, you don’t want to miss something.”
I opened my mouth to protest but Jim saw it coming.
“If he had been in there you could have hurt him,” Jim said, “just slow down. Did you check the classrooms?”
I shrugged. “I checked all these rooms.” I pointed down the hall. “Where else can we look?”
Jim was getting his phone out.
“We’re going to have to call the police Joe.”
“The police?” I squeaked. I was going to have to explain why he had been left alone in the first place. I couldn’t raise him for sure now because I was probably going to jail for abandonment. It was nothing less than I deserved. “Go ahead then. Do it. We have got to find him.”
As Jim pulled his reading glasses out of his breast pocket and raised his phone to dial 911 we heard a noise. Someone was in the nave. Our eyes got wide and we both went for the door.
“Now just hold on Joey, we don’t know who it is.” Jim said as I brushed past him and burst into the nave. There, sitting on the first pew was a young woman. She was holding my baby and cooing to him.
“Hey!” I started into the room but Jim grabbed my shirt from behind and pulled me to the side.
“Hannah?” He asked her. He turned to me and held up a hand to stop me then turned back to her.
“Hannah, what do you have there honey?”
Hannah looked up smiling. She held her arms out slightly to show him the baby then cradled him to her again.
“God brought him to me Brother Jim,” she said softly. “Isn’t he beautiful? I took him to the bathroom and changed his diaper.” She nodded toward a green diaper bag with LGH in large letters on the side. “See? God brought me diapers and bottles and everything I need.”
Jim approached them and pushed the blanket down with his finger. He touched the baby’s cheek. When the baby felt that cold finger brush his cheek he wrinkled his little nose and yawned.
“Isn’t he precious?” She asked Jim, smiling. The smile loosened a little when she saw me by the door, she hadn’t realized I was there. “Who is that, Brother Jim?” She asked, pulling the baby to her chest. “He’s not here to take my baby is he?”
“Hannah, this is Joey. He’s the baby’s father,” said Jim as kindly as he could but she started singing to the baby and he turned to me.
“This is Hannah. She was in a car accident as a small child and sustained some brain trauma that she never recovered from. She’s been coming here ever since she was little and she just loves babies, don’t you Hannah?” Jim asked, facing her again. The young woman beamed.
“Oh I do, I love babies.” She said, “L-O-V-E I love you, yes I do.” She rubbed the baby’s nose lightly with her own. Jim smiled and patted her shoulder.
“That is so sweet Hannah, but we have to give Joey his baby back.”
“But I found him. He’s mine.” She never took her eyes off the baby.
“Oh honey, it doesn’t work that way. We have to give him back.”
Big tears welled up in her eyes and she pulled him closer. I was starting to get vaguely uneasy.
“No, no that’s not right. He was all alone and I found him and now he’s mine.” She shook her finger at me. “You shouldn’t have left him.”
“I know I shouldn’t have left him Hannah, but I… I was scared and I didn’t know what to do.”
“Why are you scared?” She asked, pulling him even closer. “He’s so perfect.”
He was stirring now; she was holding him pretty firmly. He let out a little cry.
“I was scared of not being able to give him a good home; scared of being a good enough father. I didn’t think I could do it.”
“Well, do you think you can do it now?” She asked, frowning. I nodded.
“I think so,” I said and smiled. “If Brother Jim will help me, maybe I can.”
Jim held out his arms for the baby and Hannah tearfully gave him over.
“That’s good sweetheart. Well now he IS a cutie isn’t he?” He asked her, chuckling. She sat there with such a sad face; I felt so bad for starting this whole thing.
“Maybe I can bring him sometime and you can visit with him. How does that sound?” I asked.
I could stop by for a service now and again. I had a feeling I was going to need a lot of Brother Jim’s help in the coming years. Plus it was Maria’s church after all, she would have wanted this.
I looked over and Brother Jim was grinning from ear to ear.