Alice Haskell was quite a lady—vocal, dignified, competent, self-possessed. I met her when the senior pastor assigned her Senior Women’s Sunday School classroom to serve as my office, a dual purpose. She was indignant that her space had to be shared; whether she was totally serious or not, which I never knew, we made our accommodations with each other, which included several lunches and suppers together over the months to come, and much sharing of experiences. She extorted a promise that was against my better judgment, that I would not leave her town until I had firmly planted her underground. That promise was sealed with an exchange of tokens, like any sincere covenant. She gave me a metal cake plate that one wound up and it rotated and played ‘Happy Birthday.’ Of course, it had a chocolate cake on it to seal the deal. I planted bedding flowers in her garden by her house. In due course, Alice died. I officiated at her funeral. Within a year I moved on.
We arrived in our new house, ready to unpack boxes upon boxes, on my birthday. Sitting on the couch we were looking at the job we hated to begin when one of the boxes, that was sitting on the kitchen counter around the corner, began to play “Happy Birthday.” We got up, went into the kitchen, opened the box and, of course, it was the cake plate, but how it managed to rotate and play its tune, packed as it was, inside the box, left us puzzled. “Thank you, Alice,” was the only response that seemed appropriate.