Long Lost

As a scatterbrained youngster, I was forever forgetting or losing things.  A classmate may not have minded occasionally lending a pencil, but I was very reluctant to hit up the same person each time when I forgot mine at home  . . . again.  I once left a perfectly good dress in a bag on a Greyhound bus.   When I see Lost and Found boxes now, it appears that I am not alone.

Just before the pandemic hit, I had a problem with the pedal on my sewing machine, so took it in to Baskins fabric store in St. Thomas for repair.  When I went to pick it up, much to my surprise,  the clerk asked if a scissors they had in a box could possibly be mine.  It had a tag with my name and old phone number on it (we’d moved in 2010).  Note the date on the invoice for scissor sharpening – 2003!  I had missed that scissors, had wondered about where it could have gone, but given up searching and bought a new pair years before.

Somehow I’d forgotten that I’d ever taken it to the shop.  Baskins had faithfully kept my scissors from 2003 to 2019 in the hopes I would one day come in to get them.

Work was busy in those years.  Life was eventful, there were crises to survive and overcome.  But in that time, there were faithful people who held my place or possessions until I could come back to claim what was rightfully mine.

This help can be practical, but isn’t always in tangible form.  Sometimes just the predictability of worship services at church set a comforting and encouraging rhythm so that I could keep on track.   Someone did the work of planning and serving so that could happen.  Someone kept safe the gospel hope to return it to me when I’d long forgotten it in dark days and ordinary ways.

I did feel somewhat foolish about my forgotten and abandoned scissors, which must have been tucked away in some corner in the shop for years.   But the owner of Baskins laughed and told me that I didn’t need to pay the sharpening fee anymore.

A small grace gratefully received.


Gifts of Christmas

Jacquie Lawson Cards, “The Christmas Tree”

My uncle said once that money could bring happiness, contrary to what he’d heard.  He found such joy in giving his wealth away.  Those gifts multiplied many times over as they encouraged other givers.  So people’s lives were nurtured and restored, and they in turn were granted the privilege of giving to others:  the gifts just kept on giving.

Gifts don’t even have to be new.  Our grandchildren range in age from twenty to six years of age, but each child, from toddlerhood till their knees could no longer squeeze into place, has ridden the second-hand tricycle my sister donated when her own children outgrew it.  The tricycle was certainly not comfortable – it was so old that no seat cushions could be found to adequately cover the old metal seat plate.  That in no way stopped each child from zipping around our basement with glee. Once we found out we could link up the old steno chair with its free-wheeling base as a trailer, the fun was on.

One of last year’s gifts was a bonus, as it came in an old photo storage box – just the thing I’d been looking for in which to organize and keep old photographs.   I felt like a small child, as distracted and happy with the box as with the gift itself.

Sometimes the gift is Presence.   Our home offers us its gift of sanctuary, so that we can bask in the afternoon sunlight, winter cozy.  Outside, the Christmas wreath hangs on our front door and spruce woodchips from a local tree service scent our garden beds and walkways.  The bright hues of Christmas lights on our small tree are mesmerizing.

It’s Christmas time and we celebrate the awesome gift of the tiny child in a manger.  Even the poorest of us has been given such riches.  Gift that the Giver gave of himself, true abundance and ever-flowing life.




Old-Fashioned Christmas

In the early 1960s, our school in Hamilton still furnished their classrooms with rows of old-fashioned wooden desks, attached to each other.  They were marked up by decades of fidgety youngsters and leaky inkpots.  When they were replaced by the newer, shinier individual desks, the old ones were stored in our barn for years, along with old milk cans and other stuff destined to be part of the antiques world some day.

And that’s how I ended up with this particular item, evidently the row’s back seat.  It has a sentimental value, like many other things in my home. There’s the sampler I stitched in my 20s, reminiscent of the needlework young girls would make years ago.  There’s the cookie tin that belonged to my Dad’s mother, the only tangible item we have that belonged to her.  There’s the doll, wearing clothes that once fit a baby daughter.  There’s the jazz singer statue we picked up in New Orleans.  There are the children’s gifts and the Mother’s Day cards.

When we had to clear our parents’ home, we took the precaution of asking our aunt to go over things before they were recycled or discarded.  They weren’t necessarily things that would be valued on the market.   The old couch that we lounged on as teenagers was still in use forty years later.  There were the leather hangers my uncle had made.  There was the first radio my Mom bought with her first hospital wage earnings.  It was costly at the time, but she had an amazing radio reception from her perch on the Hamilton escarpment, sometimes even tuning into Dutch broadcasts.

It’s Christmas time, and again we bring up the boxes from under the basement stairs.  Many ornaments have been part of the collection for years.  The tree is smaller, but the creche, Sinterklaas, the carol singers, the angels, the nutcrackers are arranged once more around the room.  The wreath is hung up on the door, and the snowmen arranged in the front hallway.  It’s not even for the kids, as the family Christmas isn’t here this year.   It’s for us.

In a children’s book much beloved by my children, a young boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge reaches out to an old woman to help her remember again.   A shell stirred up memories of the wonderful summer days when she collected them on the beach as a child.  Similarly, as we hold them in our hands, things seem insignificant, but they remind us of people and places and special times of our lives.

So, for now, they’re staying.




My imaginary childhood heroine was named Suzie, a choice likely influenced by the little girl who lived in the wealthy household where my aunt was working as a maid.  Sometimes when the family was away, I could stay with my aunt and revel in the luxury there.  Imagine, a princess bed!  Imagine, a real life attic you could play in!  Beautiful clothes, wonderful dolls and toys!  To a child of recent Dutch immigrants, such amenities were so far beyond having that it was the stuff of dreams.

That Suzie lived in a mansion that was set in a landscaped property at the end of a long, tree-lined driveway.  But if she was imported into my old farmhouse life, she was a princess in disguise who had been hidden away so that she would not be kidnapped.  Suzie was brave and strong, and never complained.  Suzie was the only girl, not one of four, a clear supply and demand devaluation.  In real life, people smiled at my little brother in sympathy and talked about what it would be like to have so many mothers.

But imaginary Suzie was feminine and pampered, and celebrated for being a girl.  She wore frills and lace and crinoline petticoats and fancy button shoes.  Even though you couldn’t get into our farmhouse attic, Suzie and I knew it was there, and we conjured all kinds of mysteries from the 100 years of its existence.  When my cousins would come for sleepovers, I would spin dramatic Suzie tales.

And Suzie was not above using her feminine wiles to get out of difficult situations.  I might be impulsive and klutzy, but Suzie was always graceful.  Suzie did not have onerous household chores to do, like polishing the silver on Saturday mornings.  Suzie didn’t have parents who were busy with work and a growing family.

There simply wasn’t time for frills and pampering in the immigrant struggle to establish homes in a new land.  In Europe, the women could take leisurely afternoons to do their fine needlework, but here that was a luxury only possible on wintry evenings. While my parents felt suspended in a kind of limbo between two worlds, we children struggled with shallow roots in the Canadian soil.

It’s only as time passed that I realized that this prosaic life, too, could be raw literary treasure.  Pragmatic, practical people lived workaday lives, but they also loved to gather to recount adventures, to laugh uproariously at some of their predicaments and misunderstandings with language.  A different kind of art emerged from the stuff of their lives and their hardiness.   So that being feminine also revealed resourcefulness and pluck, and a strong determination to endure.

There’s more than one way of being a girl.  And more than one way of telling her story.


A Colourful Life


We live in the country, but within a short distance are coffeehouses, shops, restaurants, a library and theatre.  As I walk the sidewalks and down the hill into the village, my solitary life becomes participation in a panorama.  There are people cutting grass, shingling rooftops, walking dogs, hammering on construction projects, smiling a greeting.

These beautiful fall days seem to beg gathering up and  I want to savour them as if they were crisp harvest apples.  The leaf canopy has exploded in vivid colour and I’m scuffling through leaves on my walk.  New vistas appear teasingly over the lake as the trees bare their branches.


A colourful life is a kind of euphemism for saying that perhaps the colouring was done outside the parameters of polite society.  But as we age along with family and friends, we are constantly reminded that our life under the sun is so fragile, our time so limited.  We hunger for riotous colours, see them in the plants and the animals and in odd-looking creatures lurking deep in the oceans.

Truly all of us have the opportunity to live a colourful life.  We just need to open our eyes to the multi-hued world around us, open our imagination to the worlds inside of us.  To stop rushing blindly on, and to celebrate the gifts of our Creator.


Working in the Apple Orchard

Autumn and the fulfillment fruit
Of blossoms’ beauty back in May
Clothes discarded on limbs of trees as
Chilly morning warms to the day.

Strapping on a basket
Reaching among the branches laden
To pluck the ripe red apples there
Cradled gently in their haven.

In autumn sunshine, the warmth
Beams on my upturned face.
A tiny owl stares unblinkingly
From its dark recess, a hidden place.

And I am filled with gratitude
Happy in the time spent there.
For all too soon the cold winds blow.
I breathe the purest, freshest air.