A surprise around every corner

Since our daughter, her husband and their three little ones moved in with us while waiting for their new house to be finished, I’ve had a most peculiar feeling.

It’s an odd feeling—as though I am not entirely alone.

Oh, I catch glimpses of shadows now and then, long hair flying around a corner, muffled laughter, but I do not see the ones to whom the shadows, the hair and the laughter belong.

They’re quick, so very, very quick.

I dash up the stairs and faint echoes of footsteps trail behind me.

I stop, the echoes stop. I resume the stairs, the echoes resume.

Sometimes I feel as though there is a presence behind me and other times it feels as though a presence has gone before me.

I turn into the bathroom to put on my makeup and see my cosmetic drawer is ajar. I would never leave it like that.

Or did I?

Or did someone else?

But who? It’s unlikely the husband has developed an interest in blush and mascara. The hairbrush and comb are out of place. Two tubes of lip gloss have lip gloss sliding down the sides and are missing caps.

I straighten the drawer, fix my face and step into the bedroom.

Indentations pockmark the bed—like divots on a golf course. Odd. The bed was made more than an hour ago. Muffled giggling comes from the other side of the bed and the bed shakes ever so slightly.

Strange, simply strange.

I return downstairs and pause at my desk. The tape dispenser is empty. Again. For the third time in three days. I don’t remember using vast amounts of tape. Maybe I need more sleep. Maybe I tape things in my sleep.

The stapler is open and empty as well. Surely, I would remember flying through 300 staples. But then I don’t remember creating this pile of drawings with colored markers—pictures of people with beady eyes, crooked smiles, wild hair and stick bodies with disjointed arms and legs.

The scissors are out as well. They’re the good scissors—the pair that is sharp and not for children. Strange, I don’t remember cutting.

Something among the pieces of paper lying on the floor catches my eye. It is a long golden curl of hair. I don’t remember cutting my hair.

I certainly don’t remember being blonde.

“When did I use up the tape?” I mutter aloud. “When did I empty the stapler? When did I create these marvelous, wonderful, beautiful drawings?”

The door to the closet beneath the stairs softly closes. Laughter emanates from behind the door.

Creeping to the closet with the stealth of a sneaky cat, I fling open the door and yell, “GOTCHA!”

The phantoms tumble out, arms and legs flying in every direction, screaming and shrieking with laughter.

“You scared us! How did you know we were in there?”

“Oh, just a lucky guess.”


When Heaven came down to Earth

First published Dec. 16, 2013

The best Christmas is the unexpected Christmas. After all, that’s what the first Christmas was, an unexpected, cosmic intersection of the natural and the supernatural – in the shepherd’s field, the manger stall and the arms of a bewildered new mother and father.

We nearly obscure the power and the beauty of the first Christmas with all our busyness and trappings today. And yet, small glimpses of the marvels of that first Christmas happen even now.

I once caught such a glimpse at a city mission. It was Moms Club, a weekly morning meeting where women come to hear a message, work on completing a GED or learn about parenting. On the last meeting before the holidays, each woman was given a large grocery bag filled with necessities. Sometimes they even received something extra, something special like laundry detergent.

The bitter cold outside was offset by a furnace that wouldn’t quit on the inside. The room was packed with women shoulder to shoulder, women in old coats and old clothes. The furnace circulated the smell of hard work, poverty and wet boots. There were women who had children, women who had health problems, women who had prison records and women who had nothing but the clothes on their backs. The room was sweltering, the crowd restless.

As a woman welcomed everyone from up front, the crackling sound system, as weary as the women, muffled what must have been an introduction. A woman in a black cape swept up the center aisle. She planted herself firmly on the riser and instantly owned the room.

She drew a breath and began to sing. “O holy night, the stars are brightly shining.”

Her voice was magnificent. Strong and pure, it was a voice that belonged to the heavens.

“It is the night, of our dear Savior’s birth.”

Her voice soared, filling the room with a rare, exquisite beauty. The stunning elegance and artistry made listeners dare not draw a breath for fear of missing a fraction of a second.

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘til he appeared, and the soul felt its worth.”

Her voice ascended through the clouds, looped toward earth and soared again and again. She was on the final verse now. Could she possibly reach higher or stronger? “O night, O holy night, O night divine.” Had there been crystal in the building, it would have shattered into a million shards—and then reassembled itself with joy.

She whisked down the aisle and vanished out the door.

Who was she?

Someone mumbled a name. “She’s passing through town and came from the airport just to sing at the mission. She’s returning from an engagement at the Metropolitan Opera.”

I have never been to the Met. I doubted those around me would be going anytime soon, either. But the Met had come to us, the tired, the worn and the weary. For a few minutes it seemed as though the supernatural had infused the natural. Like that very first Christmas, Heaven had once again reached down to Earth.

Finding the perfect gift

Lori Borgman

Some people are born with a knack for gift giving. They intuitively know what others would enjoy, what would bring a smile to their faces.

My grandmother had a knack for giving gifts and so do our daughters.

Our son has a knack for giving good gifts, though he’s never been one to plan ahead. For a number of years he would give us something he had painted. The catch was remembering to ask if the paint was dry.

It seems the knack for giving good gifts can skip a generation. I’m never entirely sure the gift I’ve chosen is something the recipient will be excited about. Will he like it? Will she enjoy it? Maybe I’ll just enclose the gift receipt in the box and save them the embarrassment of asking.

A gift that sent one of the toddler grands over the moon a few years ago was a box of Cap’n Crunch. The tot tore into it and began eating cereal by the handful on the spot. Her aunt was positive it would be the perfect gift and it was.

Oh, that all gift-giving dilemmas could be resolved on the cereal aisle.

My parents had an incredible knack for giving good gifts.

Apparently, they still have the knack even though they’ve been gone 10 years plus.

Our oldest daughter has been using a rickety, hand-me-down sewing machine with uneven stitches and erratic tension. She’s been dropping hints for several years that she’d like a new one.

Rummaging through important papers this fall, she found a U.S. savings bond my dad had given her years ago.

She found the bond on Dad’s birthday.

It was at full maturity. The amount was exactly enough to pay for a sewing machine she’s had her eye on.
He would have liked that. He would have folded his arms across his chest, leaned back, grinned and claimed he’d planned it from day one.

What a wonderful gift, given years ago, just waiting to be found, waiting to be opened, waiting to be used and enjoyed.

We rack our brains for gift ideas this time of year, often overlooking the most wonderful gift right in front of us. It’s the gift lying in the manger, the infant Jesus, God in the flesh. The gift was given more than 2,000 years ago. Yet it is still here, silently waiting—to be found, received and enjoyed.

The perfect gift.

The last best after-Christmas sale

The after-Christmas sales are nothing like they used to be.

I was at an after-Christmas sale a few years ago and there were a dozen checkout lines open with no wait at any of them. A TV crew stood by the front door sipping Starbucks waiting for more than one shopper to walk through the door at the same time, so they claim it was a crowd.

The last best after-Christmas sale was 25 years ago. It was before the sales started as soon as you pushed back from the Thanksgiving table. It was old school— the day after Christmas, when men and children stayed home and women went out to do what they were born to do—fight for 50 percent off. The last best after-Christmas sale was the one at which my mother nearly lost her teeth.

It was bitter cold as Mom and I stood with a growing throng outside the locked doors of a shopping mall in Kansas City, Missouri. We were all there for the same reason—to make a run on the half-off Hallmark cards and gift wrap. It was when women cared to send the very best, before the advent of photo cards and scrapbookers who make their own cards. It was a time when women judged one another by the brand of cards they sent and the quality of gift wrap they used. It wasn’t just a sale, it was your reputation on the line.

The doors opened. The crowd surged through the doors, stampeding through housewares, knocking over Santa mugs on display and sending cookware crashing to the floor. I quickly lost sight of Mom in the crowd, assuming she was threading her way to the front. She’d been on the track team in high school and had long legs.

As for me, I cut a path to the religious cards, aware that aggression should be kept in check when wrestling for cards picturing the Madonna and child.

Across the way, Mom was scoring big-time in wrapping paper. She reached for a roll of foil wrap (something neither of us would ever never pay full retail for) at the same time another woman grabbed the other end of the roll. The other woman began tugging on her end of the roll, at which point my mother, being a courteous person, let go of her end, sending the other woman flying. My mother began laughing so hard that she started to cry. Tears clouding her vision, Mom tripped over another shopper, the force of which partially dislodged her false teeth.

My mother never took her false teeth out for entertainment purposes like her twin sisters did, which, of course, made those aunts immensely popular with myself and all 24 of my cousins. The fact that my mother, had risked the humiliation of losing her false teeth in public and was still laughing about it shows that shoppers were a dedicated breed back then. Losing your false teeth, whilst funny, could also be considered a dental emergency so be sure to get in touch with your Dentist Silver Springs if you’re in need of dentures!

It was a good after-Christmas sale. Maybe the best ever. I wish you could have been there—but only if you were slow and stayed at the back of the pack.


The class of 41

We store mental snapshots of those who have gone before us. They are a shorthand remembrance for legacies of a broader and deeper scope.

When my father died, a friend wrote a tender note and included an acorn. She said my father was like a strong oak, and the acorn was my legacy.

The Smithsonian Museum’s Legacies exhibit contains artifacts that are reminders of well-known historical and pop culture figures, such as the compass used on the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804, Evil Knievel’s jumpsuit and motorcycle, GI dog tags from World War II, Minnie Pearl’s hat and Mr. Rogers’ sweater.

I have long carried a snapshot in my head of President George Herbert Walker Bush. It is the image of a consummate diplomat, one who possesses tact, is at ease forging relationships and adept at negotiations.

My copy of “All the Best, George Bush” is fringed with Post-it tabs marking numerous passages worthy of a second read. They aren’t career or political accomplishments, but examples of how to handle difficult situations, encourage others and hold fast to hope and a vision for the future.

Those abilities seemed innate to Bush, apparent in a letter written to his mother after he joined the Navy the day he graduated high school as a rather innocent 18-year-old, in somewhat jovial correspondence with government officials and even in notes on a meeting with an angry, red-in-the face Henry Kissinger. Much of his writing ended with an upbeat note, a dash of wit or a shot of encouragement.

Like most of us, Bush possessed strong opinions, but they were tempered by finesse and grace. Maybe that’s what humility looks like.

Good will and kindness seemed to be part of his DNA. When he left his post as chief of the U.S. Liaison’s Office in China, the staff who served him by cooking, cleaning and maintaining the residence was genuinely sad to see him leave. How many employees feel like that about a boss heading toward the exit?

When he was President, cameras often zoomed in on him at a ballgame and he’d be mouthing the words to a country song playing in the stadium. Comfortable with himself and comfortable with others, essential qualities for navigating the barbed world of politics.

He was deliberate and candid about noting things that had gone well and things that hadn’t gone well. His writings reveal an ability to place things in context and see another’s point of view. How old school. We could use more of that today.

His ability to lead and unite was astounding as he quickly assembled one of the largest coalitions in history when Iraq invaded Kuwait. How does someone do that?

History will be the judge of 41 as a president.

As a human being, he’d be the first to say he wasn’t perfect.

On our best days, we live life trying to reflect the goodness of our Maker. If, by the grace of God, we have a number of good days, we build a strong legacy. We leave memories, attitudes, habits and ways of treating others that will be remembered long after we are gone.

Bush 41 may have died, but his legacy of goodness is very much alive.