Time After Time

I heard the familiar click and wondered what the selection would be. There was no song playing. I looked up and saw that the bottom piece was spinning, and it was the right time, but it wasn’t doing what it should. Wondering if someone switched off the sound, I got up and took it off the wall.

On the side, there was a reset button, so I tried that, and nothing happened. I pushed the other option, and I got the same result. The next solution was to check the batteries, and after that didn’t help, I was at a loss.

My daughter had purchased the clock while my mom was in hospice. The day after she went on to heaven, it was delivered to our house. Because of the many supernatural experiences I kept having during that time, I found it no coincidence that this became a part of it.

One of my mom’s favorite songs was Ave Maria. Every time the hour struck, that melody would play even though there was a selection of at least thirty other tunes. Many times, when I was in the height of frustration trying to clean their house of sixty-one years and wondering why this wasn’t something my parents had done before, I would come home late to that playing the minute I opened the door.

“You’re welcome, mother!” I would say to the ceiling as I walked into my room and threw myself across my bed, exhausted.

Other times, when I was engaged in a conversation about her, whether good or bad, that song would suddenly come on to interrupt me mid-sentence as if to say,

“Chris, I can hear you!”

Their lack of planning was a burden, but I realized that to get out from under it, we had to get the house on the market. I spent days moving heavy items to the curb and had college kids who had no money come and take furniture for their housing. They were elated to have such good choices free of charge. I just wanted it gone, and that was payment enough.

It wasn’t just big items that were a nuisance but a lot of paper. They kept every single scrap. Whether it was an old bill or a magazine, they had it. I could have had a bonfire twice a day for the rest of my life with all of it—hours of shredding what was once important and throwing what wasn’t. Not to mention the canned food that could have fed an entire country. I hated every single minute of it. So much so that I went through my entire household and tossed things left and right, never to put that on my children.

This was not a sentimental journey where I looked at items and had my heartstrings pulled, but all I saw was a mess left for someone else to deal with. The self-centeredness of this would grate on me, but I knew I would only prolong the escape process if I got too wrapped up in it. I wanted out, so I put my mind to what was in front of me and shook off the resentment.

I could shut my eyes and see the interior of the house as if it were indelibly stamped in my mind. It had consumed my life from morning until night. There had been so many treks to the front yard with free signs hoping that someone would take mercy on me. One of the items was the ugliest chairs on the planet. It had sat there for a few days, and one night as I was leaving, I rolled down my window, pointed at it, and told its owner to get it immediately. The next day it was gone. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Near the end of this, my daughter and I made the trip back over to wrap up a few things that would finally set me free.

“I will not miss driving down this road,” I said.

That day, when we walked into the nearly empty living room, there was a cassette tape on the floor that my daughter picked up.

“Where did this come from?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “What is it?”

“It’s her favorite song. The one that has been playing all the time on the clock.”

I laughed. She was the most undead woman I had ever met.

So for the clock to quit working all of a sudden seemed like a loss of something that had been used to pull me through a stressful time.

“What is wrong with this?” I asked my daughter.

“I don’t know.”

This is unusual for her to give me that answer because she can usually figure out anything. She went through the same motions I had to try and fix it, but we were both left without answers.

I tried going online to see if I could contact the company where it was made. The purchase had been on Amazon, but I found the original manufacturer, so I sent out an email and got nothing in return.

The next step was to locate a repair place near us to take it apart and see what was wrong. She found one about thirty minutes away that claimed to be able to help even the worst case.

I made a call and talked to a man who seemed very accommodating.

“We don’t know why it stopped working, and we have done everything we can to fix it.”

“I work in the department that can do this for you. Bring it in, and I will take a look at it.”

It was our first glimmer of hope in solving the mystery.

I had no idea where this was, so I had to listen to the directions closely, and she made sure I didn’t miss a turn or go off in the wrong direction.

She seemed sad as if all the dead ends were starting to get to her. The clock just wasn’t a timepiece because of the significance it had taken. I tried to stay positive.

“The guy was so nice, and he seemed like he could help us. I think it will all work out just fine, and if we have to leave it with them, I think we will have it back quickly. I keep thinking it’s not as bad as we think it is.”

I felt like my cheerleader’s advice wasn’t going over.

The shop was small, but it wasn’t short of clocks. Just walking in was overwhelming with all the clicking and clacking going on. How did people work in this environment day after day? Talk about time staring you in the face. I started to think about how old I was standing there.

A lady came to the register.

“How can I help you?”

I put the clock on the counter and started to explain what had been going on.

“I called, and whoever I spoke to said to bring it in so it could be repaired.”

That’s when the attitude started. Like a light switch was flipped, I felt my upbeat mood challenged.

She picked up the clock, looked at us, and said,

“Did you drop this?”

“No. It’s been hanging on the wall in the same spot for the entire time.”

She popped open the back and removed the batteries.

“These look cheap.”

“No. They are the ones that came with the clock, and I got the same ones when we replaced them.”

Her icy expression continued.

“The company that makes these are very picky about returns. Do you still have the warranty papers?”

We said we did.

“Well, I highly doubt they will want to replace or repair this for you because they will claim you broke it by dropping it.”

Where was she coming up with this story? None one had dropped or mishandled the clock.

“That never happened,” I said.

She sighed and shook her head condescendingly.

Was I in the right clock shop? Was this the place where I had called and gotten such excellent assistance and was now up against the crypt keeper? Did they change owners in the thirty minutes it took me to drive?

“All of the parts in this are plastic. Let me see what I can find out,” she snapped.

She walked into a back room. I looked at my daughter, who seemed highly distressed. While she was sinking into a bit more of a down mood, this lady was pushing me to the brink with her accusations, and the slow burn inside of me was starting. There is one thing I cannot stand: being told I did something wrong when I haven’t.

I was hoping she would come back with a changed outlook on life but to no avail.

“They won’t take this. I already told them that this was probably not worth our time at all. It seems to have been damaged somehow.”

There it was again. The subtle blame the customer speech. I took back the clock before my hair caught on fire from the anger coursing through me.

“Okay,” I said quietly, suppressing the rage. I looked at the cuckoo clock on the wall behind her. Very fitting.

Back in the car, my daughter slumped down from the chastising while I was not at all feeling shame.

“We have done nothing wrong,” I said.

“She made me feel that way, though. Like I did something to cause this problem.”

“But, we know we didn’t, and she can say whatever she wants. She is a poor representative for working with the public. She didn’t want to help us. I am going to find a way to resolve this.”

Just then, I had a memory flash through my mind of a speech I heard where it was said that if you have closed doors and keep getting the answer no, that means you haven’t found your yes.

“I am going to get your yes.”

When we got home, I went back online to search for any help. I kept finding nothing, so finally, I said,

“God, help!”

That was it. I didn’t throw ashes on my head, light candles, or get down on my knees and beg.

I clicked on a link, and suddenly I found an obscure email address that I hadn’t seen before. I explained the entire situation, crossed all my fingers, and hit send.

In a few days, I got a response.

“Who is Eugene?”

I opened it, and he explained that he would be sending a shipping label for us to print. All he needed was the original papers from the purchase, including the warranty, and he would try to repair it.

We sent it on its way, and about three weeks later, I got another email.

“There was something defective with that clock, and I am sending you a brand new one. Be on the lookout for it.” So much for the company being challenging to deal with. It was back on the wall in no time and happily playing the same song again, over and over.

When you are supposed to have something, God will make sure you get it. It has been proven to me time after time.

Angelic Friends

estatesale I was out with my best friend yesterday morning when he spotted this sign. “An estate sale. Should we go?” “I have not ever been to one before.  Ok.” For some reason the title ‘estate sale’ makes me envision a long winding driveway that whisks one by a perfectly manicured sprawling lawn up to the doors of a mansion. A butler greets you at the door and you walk around wonderful antiques and treasures of great value from all corners of the earth. So, when we drove by the townhouse garage I was a bit skeptical.  In fact, the sale was so obscure, we had to circle around because we drove right by it. “Should we skip it?”  he asked. “No,”  I said always on the hunt for a story.   As we approached the end of the driveway, an older man was shuffling his bills back into his wallet.  He wasn’t carrying anything, so I assumed he hadn’t found what he was looking for.  He looked at us, smiled, and said sarcastically, “She had quite the collection.”  He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he stalked off to his car.  This wasn’t looking promising.  When I walked into the garage, I was astonished. garage There were boxes and tables filled with all varieties of angels.  I figured the person having the sale had decided to sell off some of her collectables to downsize.  It occured to me that this probably wasn’t the case as I walked into the home and found more areas filled with angels.  Upon going up the stairs, I discovered another table covered with them.  The walls had angels of many types.  A bedroom housed more.  I was so overtaken as I walked from room to room seeing nothing but angels. I asked a lady who seemed to be running the sale if she could tell me anything about the person these belonged to. “They all were owned by one lady.  She died from cancer.  She was only 64.”  It felt like there was alot of negativity toward the entire situation.  Like it was a burden and the items needed to be gotten rid of.  I walked out of the house feeling awful. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin,” I said.  “How would I even know what was valuable or not?”  I then had an idea to call my youngest daughter because she is a doll collector. “Maybe if I come back with her I can have her look things up and find out more for me.  I noticed that many of the angels were from the Napco company like my cookie jar.” Within a short period of time, I was back at the sale accompanied by my child who has a better ability to find rare items than I do.  I tried to prepare her mind for the massive amount of angels she was about to see.  She had the same reaction I did. “Wow.  This is neat,” she said. She began searching online for angels from Napco and showed me a picture of one. “Do they have this?”  I looked at it and to my own surprise said, “They had that one upstairs on a table!” We climbed the stairs to the living room on the second floor.   I had found my first angel. candyangel As she and I walked around I felt led to go in certain rooms.  If I found one angel in the garage, I found a matching one that went with it in a bedroom at the back of the house. “They have not put the sets together,” I said. I started to feel sad for the woman who had spent so much time taking such care of the pieces. The company that had been hired to run the sale had spent hours unwrapping thousands of angels that had been carefully stored and preserved.  However, they had placed them haphazardly in places out of order. When I went back into the living room area, I noticed a woman sitting in a chair going through boxes at her feet.  We began to talk, and I found out more information about the ‘angel lady’. “She and I were good friends,” she said.  “She was part of an angel club that met together all the time.”  I could see the tears in her eyes as she spoke to me. “Julie told me that she had stage 3 ovarian cancer. When she had gotten the diagnosis she started collecting angels.  I think they brought her comfort, and she lived for twenty-five more years.   I guess there were only eight woman living in Minnesota with cancer that advanced. When she died in March, she was the last one to go.” My daughter and I bought a few items and returned home.  Not knowing what I had purchased, we began looking up Napco and Lefton collectibles.  We discovered that many of them were quite valuable, and I felt compelled to return with a new understanding of what these angels meant. This time as I went through the house I felt as if the owner was leading me to get her collection back in the right order.  I started to get a sense of peace as we sat and carefully looked over all of the items. Many times throughout the day we heard slight comments such as, “what a hoarder” or “why would someone do this?”  I realized these people were missing the point. I also found that many who roared through the place were looking to make money and in that pursuit were missing out on the fact that a woman had died at such a young age from a horrible affliction. As I pieced together various sets to make them more appealing to potential buyers, I found out that the people running the sale had no knowledge of who Julie was and her reason for collecting angels.  Nor did they know that if she became aware of someone in need of food or money, she would make sure she helped with whatever she could give.  Her heart was that of what we would expect of an angel. Giving. Kindhearted.  Helpful.  Friendly. I learned all of this as I sat and listened and tried to gleen as much information about her life from the woman who was her friend.   I left at the end of the day with 24 angels for my shelf at home.  I cleaned off a space to make room and arranged them in a way that was orderly. I felt as if I had been a part of preserving the history of a stranger who I had come to know in one afternoon. I woke up today and the first thing that caught my eyes were my angels.  Because they are so detailed, it is difficult not to get caught up for awhile looking them over and realizing that before I was born, someone had crafted these treasures.  Most of what I bought was made in 1956.  As I sat gazing at them, I wondered if I should return to the sale to see what was left. This was an odd feeling for me as I have never gone to a sale four times in less than a twenty-four hour period. I don’t hardly ever go to sales in the first place.  To be honest, even GoodWill and Salvation Army stores give me the creeps somewhat as I can only think that I am buying stuff that someone died with in their hand. Like that really cheap coffee mug that reads: Have a Great Day! I cannot bring myself to buy it and then enjoy a drink from it. I had spent so much time in this woman’s house, knew of her recent death and had not felt unsettled about that at all.  The more time I spent surrounded by her angels, the more peaceful I became. We decided to visit again today to see if many more pieces had been sold.  I found a few sets still sitting out that I had arranged the day before. As she and I walked around the garage, I began to notice alot of July angels.  I pointed this out to my daughter. “I wonder if her birthday was in July,” she said. Moments later we heard a woman inside the house say, “Julie would have been so happy to see all of her collections being bought by people so they could go on being enjoyed.  Today is her birthday so this sale is just all that more special.” I could not believe my ears!  I quickly snatched up a July angel to take home to my shelf. I didn’t want to leave the sale without taking a token to honor this woman.

julyangel

Apparently, it had been a ‘coincidence’ that the sale of her beloved treasures landed on her birthday.

angelfriends

 This sale showed up in my life the day after I prayed and asked God if I could be made more aware of angels in my life. I have been reading books and different accounts of how people have encountered angels.   I long for that touch of heaven here on earth all the time.  Yet, at the same time, I am a little afraid.  I think about when the angels showed up in the field to announce the birth of Jesus.  The shepherds were scared out of their wits.  Knowing this, I asked to be shown the presence of angels in a way that was gentle and non-threatening that I could easily accept.  I believe now more than ever.

 mygirl

Even though I never met her, I will never forget Julie and her angelic friends.

The Magical Jar

One evening three years ago, while living in Arizona, I was talking to my youngest daughter about the cookie jar that used to sit on my Grandma Hazel’s counter. With my eyes closed, I could vividly see the tiny kitchen where she had spent so much time baking and cooking.

“Her cookie jar had a pink heart on it and was covered with cutout cookies,” I said.

“Like this?” she asked showing me a picture that she had googled.

“That’s exactly it! Where did you find it?”

“I looked it up under ‘cookies all over cookie jar’.”

We went on to read that it had been manufactured in the 1950s by a Japanese company named Napco and given away as a premium gift. Back then, if a housewife saved up enough stamps from purchasing certain items, she could buy a gift for free. Most of the jars for sale on Ebay were either damaged or too highly priced.

I kept looking online once in awhile as the idea would come and go. Last year, during the early summer, I began to think of it again and searched for something that would be affordable and in good shape. As I looked at various pictures by sellers, I was transported back to her house and the days when I would come in from swimming in the community pool that was across the alley. We always took advantage of a swim as she didn’t have air conditioning in her old house. North Dakota summers can get extremely hot especially in July so a soak in cold water could keep a kid cooled off for awhile.

I was usually greeted on her back porch with a glass full of cherry kool-aid and peanut butter cookies from the jar on the counter. It seemed as if that jar never was empty even though we ate one cookie after another. It was as if by magic it refilled itself.

During the time she was moved from her home into assisted living, items were auctioned off, and I regrettably did not ask for it as a keepsake. My hunt to own one was slightly marred by the fact that it wouldn’t be the original from my grandma’s house, but at least I could have the good memories to go with it.

One night about a week before my birthday last year, I began my search again in earnest. I thought it would be special to have it as a gift, but my pursuit was coming up short. Exasperated, I looked up to heaven and said,

“Grandma, if you want me to have this cookie jar, then bring it to me!” I closed my eyes and saw myself standing in her kitchen next to the cookie jar on the counter. In my imagination, picked it up and held it in my hands.

Before clicking out the light, I did one last search. Up popped a seller in Mesa, Arizona. I was surprised because moments before, it had not been there at all. The next day, I passed on the information to my best friend who has relatives in that area. After a few attempts on his part to contact the seller, we thought it had been sold because she wasn’t returning his calls.

I made the decision to drop the idea. If I was to have it, I would. I was not going to struggle anymore to get it. My birthday came and went without the jar in my possession, but I had completely put it out of my mind. In October, I drove to the airport to pick up my friend from his short stay in Arizona. When we arrived at his house, he got out of his car and said,

“I have something for you in the trunk.” I knew he had gone to the massive flea market that they have in Mesa so I said,

“Did you get me some of those really good scrubber things for dishes? Mine are getting old.”

He opened his trunk, pulled out a carry on bag and unzipped it. From where I stood, I just saw a bunch of his socks. My first thought was that some laundry needed to be done. I was shocked when he pulled out the possession I had been so desperately seeking.

“Happy Birthday,” he said handing it to me.

I could not comprehend that I was actually holding it in my hands with the matching lid that has a walnut on top. He had gotten in touch with the woman in Arizona who hadn’t returned his calls.

“She had this in a box labeled ‘Grandma’ and she told me that no one wanted it.” A coincidence that it had that label? I think not.

It was long past my July birthday, but the gift came at just the right time. My mom had been admitted to the hospital a few days earlier with complications due to a severe case of shingles. I had been running back and forth to visit her multiple times, and getting little to no sleep. As I had sat by her bedside watching her rest, I had often thought of my grandma and how she and my mom had kept in touch while living so far apart. They had written letters back and forth to each other over many years until her death. I felt her presence so strongly as I sat during the quiet times in my mom’s room.

Every morning I wake up, look across my bedroom and see the jar sitting on my shelf. (I am that protective of it..it will never be near the kitchen.) And I often wonder, where did the desire come from to track this down? Was it my own or did someone who dearly loves me from the other side want me to remember those hot, happy summers that we spent with one another? To some it would be an antique, and to others it would be perhaps an ugly piece of ceramic. But, to me, it is Grandma’s magical jar.

cookiejar

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