Present Ghost

Telling stories



What I found in a crack in the sidewalk

photo by Christian Widell

“If it hadn’t been for that crack in the sidewalk in Basel, you wouldn’t be here,” I will tell her.

Broken stones in front of the Swiss toy store made wide gaps, but I wanted her so badly that I almost missed finding her there in one of those spaces. I was looking in the windows, wishing I had a reason to enter and buy a toy souvenir. Just when I thought I might get one anyway, I saw the sign: Gesschlossen.

I didn’t have to say anything, and your father grabbed my hand, waiting for me to cry. But I didn’t cry because I was distracted by a little green plant sprouted from a half-inch space in the cobblestones in front of me. There you were, a tiny, delicate, and strange little strawberry about the size of my fingernail, blushing in the evening sun. You were the only one there, hanging off that singular stem busting through the sidewalk. Continue reading “What I found in a crack in the sidewalk”

It was their childhood

Image may contain: one or more people and child

Her wonder is my joy. Every time she gasps at an airplane overhead or the rumble of a passing train, I smile and doubt the name I’ve given her.

My hopes for her were strength and humility; I named her accordingly, yet she surprised me with her wonderment and easy but long, hard laughs. I never expected anything from me to act like that, so I am never quick to claim its genesis in me.

I am happy to blame it on my husband. He made me laugh.

On the sidewalk yesterday, a woman named Margaret caught up with our family. I was putting mittens on my daughter’s freezing hands that were clinging to a sugar cookie she wasn’t ready to surrender. Margaret smiled at us, pushing a cart half-full of plastic sacks containing her groceries that weren’t wet from the rain yet. Everything about her was classically stylish, from her long, fashionable coat belted at the waist to her mauve knitted winter hat capping her silver, wavy bob.

Observing our daughter and eyeing my hair, she asked, “What color is the child’s hair under that hat?”

“It’s blonde.”

Continue reading “It was their childhood”

The Sun and His Pants

Photo by Jennifer Aldrich

Now the sun had heard from the singing stars about how his cousin the moon had asked her mother to make her a gown and had been refused. Her mother warned her that there was nothing to fit her figure. For when she was new, the moon was less than a tinder, and when she was full, she was a great shining globe in the sky. So the moon had been hanging in the sky naked and bright throughout all time, exposed every night by the sun’s laughing light.

One night after taking particular joy in embarrassing his kin, the sun decided to see his father, the master tailor, about getting himself a good pair of trousers—just to remind the poor girl of her evanescence. When he asked his father about being fitted for some pants, his father shook his head: “You’re in no better spot than the moon. Though you’re constant, you burn up everything that gets close to you.”

For a while, I wrote fables and fairy tales as a way to unwind. Most, like this one, came to me in dreams. Sometimes I was awake, and sometimes I wasn’t.

Camp for children with cancer builds lifetime relationships

Quality time
Maria Shull of Warrensburg, Mo., and Rachelle  Bailey of Barnard, Mo., were co-companions of Isabel, a 7-year-old girl who spent a good deal of her time at Camp Quality last week dyeing her hair pink every morning and participating in all the water activities she could. Camp Quality of Northwest Missouri is a camp for children with cancer that takes place at Camp Farwesta in Stewartsville, Mo. The camp is the first of its kind in the United States.

STEWARTSVILLE, Mo.— Loud and long sirens blared while emergency response vehicles circled Camp Quality in Stewartsville last week. At a summer camp for children with cancer, hearing any alarms could be frightening. But Wednesday was designated “Law Enforcement Day,” which means that half a dozen public safety officials basically let the children go wild with the horns and PA system in their vehicles.

While one cruiser slowed, a young boy’s voice blasted through the speakers, commanding a group of nursing students from North Central Missouri College to put their hands up. Several in the group laughed and raised their arms in obedience as they were leaving the camp to return to Maryville. Continue reading “Camp for children with cancer builds lifetime relationships”

Not my own

Not my own

Illustration courtesy of Seth T. Hahne. Check out Seth’s graphic novel and comic review site, Good Ok Bad.

I wrote an essay for Christ and Pop Culture about how a lifelong struggle with body image and worth would never get better unless I could begin to grasp that I’m not my own.

This is out there because I thought someone might need it, and because no matter what I do, some part of this story will make it into most of my personal writings, whether or not it’s explicit.

Here is an excerpt:

“An abandoned aluminum foil container next to my sandbox provided me with my first razor when I was 4 years old. The box had been left outside after a cookout. At first, I was intrigued by its teeth. Then, after I pricked my finger, I couldn’t believe it. I was bleeding, and it didn’t hurt badly. Running my fingers across the sharp row again, I discovered I could cause and contain my own hurt. I didn’t need to cry, and no one saw me.

That incident taught me a lie that has haunted me ever since: My sadness is singular, and my body worthless.”



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