Monday, December 14, 2015

An Unexpected Gift

It had been a quiet time around the house, unusually quiet since my wife and children were off visiting grandmother for several weeks. Unfortunately I couldn’t get away to go with them and was missing them.

Right then the doorbell rang, it was just such a quick ring I wasn’t sure that I had heard it and then ja, there it is again.

I answered the door and there was an old man there, very old. He was smiling and nodding and I got a really good feeling about him. However he did not say anything and I got the impression he didn’t speak my language. 

He was holding a very large suitcase that he had with him. It was almost as big as he was. He put the suitcase down and shoved it in my direction.

I didn’t know what to think of it but I took the suitcase - it seemed like he wanted me to take it. And that was that. I took it and smiled.

I almost couldn’t believe I was taking a suitcase from a man I didn’t know and couldn’t speak to but he seemed so nice about it so I took it in the house and I looked at it more closely. I was surprised to see, on the side of the suitcase I hadn’t seen, that it had some writing on it like small signs and they were both very odd.

The one at the top reminded me of something you’d write on a gift. It said: Do not open until Christmas. There was a smaller sign underneath but it was quite prominent even though it was smaller and it said: If Christmas is late push this button.

Now you have to admit that was a baffling thing to read and I was, I don’t mind saying, totally baffled.

I couldn’t imagine Christmas being late for one thing and for another thing it seemed so strange and I wondered what would happen if you pushed the button.

I didn’t know what to do and I had a feeling a friend might be playing a joke on me. So I took the suitcase and stuffed it in a closet and basically forgot about it.

Almost a week later, around the middle of December, I was getting prepared for Christmas and had the tree all set up though not decorated yet and I heard a sort of ding, ding, ding sound. 

I knew that I didn’t have an alarm that sounded like that. All my alarms buzzed or the radio would come on or something like that but this was actually like a chime.

Ding, ding, ding. I didn’t know what that was. I looked around the house. I wondered whether it was coming in from outdoors. I went outside but couldn’t hear it from there so it wasn’t coming in from a neighbors house.

I continued to hear it, ding, ding, ding. So I walked around the house until I noticed the sound got louder. It was coming from a closet and I opened the door.

Sure enough, it was the suitcase - ding, ding, ding. I took the suitcase out and put it on the living room floor not far from the tree and looked at it while it continued to ring slightly, chiming ding, ding, ding. Then it would pause. Then ding, ding, ding again.

I reached out and touched the suitcase near the button with the sign that said about pushing it in case Christmas was late but I didn’t touch the button.

The moment I touched the suitcase in that area the dinging stopped and a voice came out of the case much to my amazement.

It didn’t exactly sound recorded because it had a deep full sound like a good stereo system has but it didn’t sound like there was a person in there either, if you know what I mean. It didn’t sound like real life.

The voice said, “Christmas is coming soon. Please press the Reset button on the side of the suitcase.”

I was startled again but I looked around the side of the suitcase and sure enough there was a small button there that said: Reset. I pressed it and the voice said, “Thank you.”

I have to admit, I still thought someone was playing a grand joke on me.

So you know, Christmas time is busy and I got busy again and put the suitcase away in the closet. 

Long about Christmas Eve day I woke up and so did the rest of the family, I was so glad that they were back. Of course we were all happy to be together and the children were excited because on Christmas Eve we opened maybe one or two gifts and then waited til Christmas morning to open everything else before we went to church.

The day went well until the strangest thing happened to us. We had a few calls from relatives and friends but right around 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon we all got very sleepy which was not typical for us.

My son Ronny, my daughter Cindy and my wife Linda and I got so sleepy we decided we just better go lay down for a while and have a nap. We woke up and it was light so I thought it was still daytime, It seemed like it was about 4:30 or 5:00.

Everybody else thought so too, it seemed like a short nap. We were smiling as we went downstairs as we were thinking about opening a gift when I happened to glance at the clock. It was a big grandfather clock in the hall and instead of showing 4:30 like I thought it would, the time was 7:30. I looked a little closer. It was clearly 7:30 AM.

At first I thought we’d somehow slept right through Christmas Eve and it was Christmas day but I looked at my watch calendar and it was the morning of  December 24th - Christmas Eve day again.

Everybody got upset and a little frightened and then much to my amazement I heard it - ding, ding, ding.

A chill ran up my spine. Not so much fear as a chill from the unexpected. My wife and kids looked at me with questions in their eyes that they didn't know how to ask for a moment. The suitcase had come and I had reset it and everything when no one else was at home but the whole experience was so odd that I’d basically just shoved it into the closet and forgotten about it.

No one knew what it was except me. I went right over to the closet and pulled out the suitcase and brought it out into the living room floor and it was going, every once in a while, ding, ding, ding. Then it would pause. Ding, ding, ding again.

“What is it dad”, said my son Ronny. “Is it a gift for us all?” 

My wife Linda stared at it and said, “Where on earth did you get that thing?” I said, “I’ll tell you later. It’s a strange story.” The suitcase chimed in again with its ding, ding, ding.

I found myself staring at that button: If Christmas is late… Right. So press the button, I thought. It seemed pretty wild but I figured well, if someone’s having a joke on me I’ll play along.

I pressed the button and the dinging stopped. The voice came out of the suitcase again and said, “Thank you.” Suddenly the suitcase unlocked itself and started to open.

My wife and kids and I jumped back a little bit as the suitcase opened up. There was a strange contraption inside with spinning wheels and balls and all kinds of levers and things moving and going back and forth and lights going on and off. It was the strangest thing. I had no idea what it was.

Out of the midst of all that contraption the voice spoke again and it said, “Merry Christmas” and it sounded friendly and we were all kind of surprised. My little daughter Cindy spoke right up. She said, “Merry Christmas to you too” in her cheerful voice.

The voice from the suitcase said, “That’s what I was waiting for, a cheerful answer.”

The voice spoke to her, “Thank you for correcting the time of Christmas. Sometimes the world time needs to be helped and I’m thanking you very much for your efforts.”

Suddenly the doorbell rang and I went and answered it expecting my sister and ready to tell her our wild story about the suitcase but when I opened the door it was the little old man and he had a big smile on his face.

I asked him to come in and he did. He walked right over to my littlest one Cindy and gave her a big smile and she smiled right back.

He then walked over to the suitcase and looked down at it and said to us all, “You’ve done very well.”

I was quite surprised as that was the first thing I ever heard him say. He bent down and folded up the suitcase and picked it up, even though it was almost as big as he was, and started carrying it to the door.

When he got to the door he turned around and said, “ We needed a little help this year so Christmas could come and that help could only come from a happy and innocent child.”

I heard a little jingling sound then and looked down and noticed that he had bells on his shoes. He took out his hat and it had a bell on top too. He smiled as he put it on and said, “Merry Christmas!” 

He stepped out the door and before he could leave Cindy ran up to him and gave him a big hug and said, “Merry Christmas, Christmas elf.”

He smiled and ran lightly down the steps carrying the big suitcase as if it was light as a feather and was gone in a flash.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to you all and remember sometimes unexpected gifts can be the greatest of all when they come with kindness and love. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Papa's Little Truck

"Oh, about this time of year I always remember Papa's little truck," Melinda said to her sister. "I remember too," said Janice. "I guess it's because it's papa's birthday." 

As her children shared their memories, Gerta smiled as she remembered how proud Herman had been of his truck. It was his first vehicle ever. Oh, it was old and a little scratched and beat up from so many previous owners but to Herman it was beautiful. She always missed him a bit this time of the year but her children would rally around her and ask her to tell the old stories as she knew would happen and the stories comforted her as they knew they would. She smiled at them.

“Tell the story again about our first trip in the truck down the road to the neighbors mama,” asked Janice

Gerta replied, “Do you really want to hear that one again?”

Janice, Melinda and their younger brother Freddy all chimed in, “Oh yes mama, please do.”

Gerta smiled at them and began, “I remember the time we went and got the pumpkins. We were all packed into the truck and there was hardly any room because there wasn’t enough room for everybody inside the truck itself. 

“It was Papa, of course, and me and Freddy who was about 3 years old and there was just enough room for him to sit on my lap - and you girls were in the bed of the truck.

“We were going to get the pumpkins because it was not only time for bringing in the crop but it was also getting kind of close to halloween and you kids were always excited about halloween because it meant you would be able to dress up in funny little costumes that I could put together out of this and that.

“Papa would take us around to the neighbors because the neighbor’s were a little ways off and since Papa had one of the few vehicles around there then the neighbors wouldn’t have to walk over to our place.

“It was about a mile down the road to get there and of course all of us were used to walking but it was night time so - well it was a good excuse for Papa to enjoy driving his little truck. 

Gerta smiled at them, “All you kids were looking forward to getting some treats too. We were going to make popcorn balls to give away that year but Millie put a little too much corn in the pot and we were eating popcorn for a few days afterward.” They all laughed about that since a little too much was actually a lot to much.

“As we got to our friends house everybody was out in front waving at us when we came down the road and they had a pumpkin there with a candle inside and a young one was sort of cuddled up near it. It was really cute. I remember that the pumpkin had a big smile on its face and so did the little one.

“We all went inside and as always we all sang songs and enjoyed bowls of fruit and told stories afterwards. Nobody told any scary stories, everyone told stories about far away places with wonderful names and stories about the stars and the people who lived there. 

After a while all the children started getting sleepy and our neighbors prepared a big basket of fruit for us as well as 3 big pumpkins - some of which they’d picked that day and it was a good time for us all.

“We all got in the truck to go home with our pumpkins and our basket of fruit and with all you kids looking forward to halloween when you’d go out with your costumes and your good feelings from our story time and time with our good friends.

Gerta got up and hugged each one of her children and they all went out to the porch to do something to remember those good times. They stood holding hands and looked out towards the neighborhood. They waved at the neighbors who were out on their porches and all said together, “Happy Halloween and good friends to you all.”

Friday, February 13, 2015

Wheels of Passage

“You need to meet somebody that’s your own age, Dad,” Tilda said to her father. “Maybe you’ll be interested again.”

“Oh honey…,” Gus said, “…I was married to your mother for 40 years and I’m not sure whether I’m ready to even think about being with another woman.”

“But dad, it’s been 7 years since mom - you know.”

“I know sweetie but you know, she was the love of my life. I can’t imagine, well…”

“Look dad, here it is. I met this woman - now don’t jump up, give me a minute okay? I met this woman recently and she’s a really nice person. And you know, the reason she caught my eye in the first place is that she was out in front of her house polishing this beautiful old hot rod.”

“Come on - now you’re making something up,” he said. “No, no really. I took a picture. Take a look at this,” Tilda said showing him the photo on her phone.

“Whoa, well what makes you think it’s her car?”

“Well, you know, I went over and asked her. I told her, ‘Gosh, my dad’s been interested in cars and hot rods his whole life.’” 

She said, ‘Really?’ and then she went on polishing.” 

“I said, ‘It’s such a beautiful car. Is it yours?”

She said, “Oh yes, I’ve had this car for about 27 years. Yeah, it’s a long story and I’ve got to finish waxing it.”

“So you know dad, I just pitched in and helped her finish. You know how I am and it’s not like we haven’t polished plenty of cars over time together,” Tilda said with a smile.
Gus chuckled, “You sure are helpful honey and you’re not shy with cars. You sure helped me wax a few.”

“Well anyway,” Tilda continued, “we got to talking…”
“Now wait a minute,” Gus interrupted, “you’ve been telling me now for about 6 months about this new friend you’ve got and you’ve been hanging around with her. This isn’t by chance your new friend?”

“Well, yes she is dad. I wasn’t sure for a long time, you know, whether she was available.”
“Oh I see”, Gus said, “what makes you think she is now?”
“Well, I saw this picture on her mantlepiece when we were inside having coffee after washing her car recently and it was her when she was younger standing next to a fella and I asked her about it. She told me that she always brought that picture out around Valentines Day. She said that was her husband and that he’d passed over quite a few years ago.”

“Well, we got to talking then. She said she works at an auto parts store and it’s a job she really likes. On the weekends she usually tinkers with the hot rod and sometimes drives it around a little bit though she has a regular car too that she drives to work. Anyway dad, we got to talking and she’s kind of lonely… and uh dad, you’re lonely too.”

“Well now honey, I’ve got my dog and got my good girl here”, he said smiling affectionately at Tilda, “and I’ve got a good life.”

“I know that dad but I know you’re lonely.”

Gus paused for a moment and then said, “Well, yeah I admit it sweetie. I’m lonely but people’ve been trying to fix me up for a while and…”

“Just give it a try dad. Tell you what. I was on my way over to Trudy’s and I was going to bring her some of my special valentine shaped cookies. Why don’t you come along.”

“Well, okay,” he said.

They walked the few blocks over to Trudy’s house and up her driveway and there she was with her back to them standing next to the beautiful blue 1932 Ford coupe. 
Impressed by the beauty of the old hot rod Gus said, “My goodness!”

Trudy turned around and said, “Hi Tilda and who’s this?”
Tilda said, “Well, it’s my dad.”

Gus and Trudy took one look at each other and eyes were twinkling back and forth.
“Well, I was just going in to have some coffee and now we have something wonderful to go with it. Do you want to come in?” Trudy said to both of them but glancing at him in particular.

“Well yes, I believe I will,” Gus replied glancing at Tilda who nodded cheerfully.

They all walked in to Trudy’s house and got settled with some good hot coffee and Tilda’s extra fancy cookies.

They’d been chatting pleasantly for a few minutes when Tilda grinned and said to Trudy, “Tell him your nickname.”

“Oh honey, for pete’s sakes,” Trudy said laughing. “Go on, you can tell him. There’s a reason you can tell him. Come on, tell him now,” Tilda said somewhat mysteriously.

“All right,” Trudy said looking at Tilda with a bit of an unsaid question showing on her face. “My good friends occasionally call me Wrinkly.”

“Oh my gosh!” Gus said his face getting red as he looked at his daughter.

“No, no, no dad. Wait,” said Tilda reassuringly.
Trudy went on to say, “Some years ago I was visiting my son and his family. We’d all gone to the lake and the children were swimming and splashing around in the water. Jilly, who was only about three years old then came over to me and looked up and said, “Grandma, you’re wrinkly.”

“My son Rory and his wife Jan rushed over to apologize but I was laughing and so was Jilly and we all laughed together. Jan explained after our laugh-fest that the children had recently seen a Shar Pei dog and that Jilly must have picked up a new word for her when the dogs owner described him as wrinkly. And you know, every once in a while one of the kids, especially Jilly, or even Rory or Jan will call me Wrinkly.”

Tilda looked at her dad with a mischievous smile and said, “Your turn.”

Gus smiled at them both and said, “Okay. When I was a teenager I had a summer job working at a deli. It was a very popular place so my task was to wrap the sandwiches up well with tinfoil so they would stay fresh. So all day long I was doing that. Some of the fella’s who worked there started kidding me because of all the sounds the tinfoil made and started calling me Crinkly and the name just stuck. My old friends still call me that.”

The three of them stared at each other and started laughing. Well, one thing led to another and every weekend for the next few months Gus and Trudy would get together and ride around in her old hot rod or go to the movies or just take a nice walk.

One fine spring day Gus said to Trudy, “You know we hit it off pretty good. What do you say if you and I make it a regular thing.”

Trudy said, “Well, you’re going to have to say that the right way.”

And he said, “Yes indeed. Madame Wrinkly, Mr. Crinkly would like you to be my wife.”

Trudy replied, “Mr. Crinkly, Madame Wrinkly would definitely like to do that.”

It just goes to show, never give up, never assume that life in any of its stages is beyond you. You just never know when something wonderful might happen. 

On that note, I’d like to wish you all a Happy Valentines Day wherever you are and whatever you’re doing and of course, goodlife to you all.