On a Wednesday morning, October 5, 1977, two years before I was born, my life, (if you can believe that) and the lives of my parents and older siblings, would change dramatically, especially for my mom, Maria. But before I segway to that beginning, it’s important and interesting enough to point out how a part of life the tortilla was for me and my family. I mean, really. It’s extremely hard to even explain it, much less put it into words. For example, as a kid, my parents worked a lot and so I usually spent a lot of time home alone. During most of those lonely days, I’d sit on the living room floor, old, worn out coffee table in front of me, holding a bowl of ramen noodles and a pitcher of kool-aid, watching a show in one of the three channels we had available to us in this very tiny community. On many of these occasions, random strangers, driving along the Old Dexter Highway, would make that left or right hand turn onto Broadway Street, parking on our gravel driveway, working their way up to our raggedy front door. As I sat there, I’d wonder, “It could be one of two people. Either a Jehovah Witness coming by to tell me that the ‘final days are near and I must repent’, or someone passing through, who just happened to read about the mysterious event from that October day in 1977.” I’d always pray for the latter. I’d hide from the Jehovah Witness, but the other stranger, I’d just let them right in. Never second guessing my 8-year old self’s decision.
In the beginning, the tortilla was held in a shrine inside the house in our dining room. We actually made room for it and for years, people, and I mean folks from all over the world, would come see this small, wallet-sized, piece of tortilla with the face of Jesus on it. And I just stood there, looking at these people, with all this hope that filled their eyes as they glanced down at the tortilla, reflecting on whatever they needed to reflect on. All the while I’d look over at the TV, pre-DVR days, missing an important scene from Three’s Company or whatever was showing at that moment, and drooling over my noodles — which were only getting colder by the minute.
People didn’t come to Lake Arthur for the fun of it. Don’t let the word “lake” fool you. (Because we didn’t have one for people to visit.) People traveled to this very small, rural community, specifically to see a Jesus face on a tortilla. People traveled from all over the world to meet with my mom! In most cases, these people were just looking for some hope and sometimes they found it in our dining room.