“The best presents are the ones you don’t expect.”*

November 28, 2011

The speaking, the sprinkling and the praying were finished and Jose was officially baptized. The men up front began hugging him, one at a time, and I had to smile at the man hugs that were being exchanged. You know those: one hand just behind the shoulder, the other hand giving 3 quick pats as the 2 guys lean into one another. I guess about 3 young guys greeted and welcomed Jose in that way, and there was a general warmth and nice-ness about it. But then white-haired George, the last to approach Jose, began to step towards him, raising and spreading both arms at his sides, palms upturned in a sort of a question mark, asking permission but with a winsome welcome at the same time. George’s head was tilted slightly left, his face was glowing and his smile was as wide as his head. The two men hugged. And I was undone. A gift that I hadn’t expected. “If ever there was a magic moment,…this [was] it.”*

I recalled another such unexpected present at the memorial service that we attended today, and took my turn telling about it. Audrey, a neighbor just up the street, had been an invalid for the last several years of her life and there was a day when Maria had called to see if I could help give Audrey a bath. She hadn’t had one for two months (yes, 2 months!) and she was dying to have one. (I didn’t doubt that.) Well, I had no clue how to do that, but I said, “Sure.” (Good heavens, how could I not?) So David and some other neighbors helped to get her to our house and we met in our downstairs bathroom to give it a go. It’s not everyone who can pull off a shared experience like this with class, but Audrey did. We laughed, no, we actually howled together, as I clumsily dropped the shower head and caused the water to rain down on us from the ceiling–water was everywhere–and we were both soaked. We were a sight, the dripping pair of us. But “if ever there was a magic moment, …this [was] it.”*

Nancy, our around-the-corner neighbor, always seems to find the best stuff. Last night she handed me a children’s book to borrow and so I read it in the car this morning: *The Carpenter’s Gift, A Christmas Tale About the Rockefeller Center Tree, David Rubel, ill. by Jim LeMarche.

One day in 1931–actually, the day before Christmas…
It had been the best day that Henry could remember, and
he didn’t want it to end. He stood before the decorated
tree, enchanted. The streetlamps had just come on, and
the tin cans glittered in their light. If ever there was
a magic moment,
Henry thought, this is it…

Nancy bought her copy downtown at The Compleat Bookseller. Maybe there’s someone you might like to surprise. After all, “the best presents are the ones you don’t expect.”

http://www.thecarpentersgift.com

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