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Window Dressing

A remarkable find

By Scott Sheffield

Normally I’m not one to believe in miracles, or the supernatural, or even coincidences, but on that day, in that moment, I could have believed in all three.

It was Thanksgiving and my Maine family had come to visit, as they had several times before. This time there was a difference, a big difference in a small package. In addition to my daughter, her husband and his mother (the usual trio), there was a baby girl — my granddaughter, Alaina, barely more than a year old.

As was our custom on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we went to Southern Pines for a stroll up and down Broad Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, admiring the Christmas decorations and popping into stores as we lollygagged. This time our route included The Little Toy Shop. It just so happened I had learned of a visit to this particular store by a certain gentleman from the far North. He was a quirky fellow by reputation, one given to sporting a hoary beard, wearing a bright red suit and exercising a penchant for giving gifts to children.

While my son-in-law waited dutifully in line for my granddaughter’s turn with Santa, the rest of us were fully engaged preventing Alaina, despite her being in a stroller, from “inspecting” (tossing on the floor) the vast array of toys and games on the lower shelves within what seemed like her 10-foot reach. Eventually, Alaina’s turn came with the jolly old elf, though she seemed less interested in him than the candy canes sitting in a jar just beyond her grasp. Requisite photos were taken.

With Alaina off Santa’s lap and fastened into her carriage, we headed back up Broad Street, slowed at times as Alaina tried to pet every dog we passed. Soon after crossing Pennsylvania, I saw the sign for Living on the Bliss, a store owned by the friend of a friend. As we looked in the window and I explained the personal connection, suddenly, I stopped. Inside on a shelf, snuggled into an array of specialty items, one in particular caught my attention — a gray pillow with large pink lettering stitched across the top. I confess, pillows in general are not something that would normally catch my eye. This one was different. The first name on the pillow was the same as my granddaughter’s. I was about to say something when I noticed that in smaller print below “Alaina” were names identical to my granddaughter’s middle name and surname. Sure, sometimes stores put personalized items on display so customers can see what a finished product might look like, but those three names? Not likely.

Then I saw a date and time printed under the name that were also familiar. It was the exact moment of Alaina’s birth, month, day and year. How could this be? While I was standing there dumbfounded, Grandma said she didn’t care how it got there, she was going to buy it. We went inside and she snatched the pillow out of the display and marched over to the check-out counter. Cassie, the daughter of the owner, Cindy Miller, was ready to ring up our purchase. I asked her how in the world my granddaughter’s name and birth information came to be on the pillow. (Her birth weight, length and the town where she was born were also there.) Unbeknown to me, my close friend Deborah — an honorary aunt to Alaina — had decided to make a gift of the pillow to my daughter’s family at Thanksgiving, but Deborah’s schedule prevented her both from being with us on that day and picking up her surprise. On a whim, the Millers decided to put the pillow on display in the window.

It was truly a special delivery.  PS

Scott Sheffield is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. He may be reached at