Toledo, OH

Miracles Happen in the Strangest of Places -- Even Toledo, Ohio

Tracy Stengel by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

I used to work at a Toledo bar Monday — Friday from 5:30 AM — 2:00 PM. I know, many of you will say, “A bar opens that early? Yikes!”

Yes, Toledo had thirsty workers workers from the nearby Jeep plant who had toiled through the midnight shift. It may have been everyone else’s crack of dawn, but it was their afternoon. This was a blue-collar, working man’s bar. The winters were tough, and the people were tougher.

I started working there in June and couldn’t help but give a side-eye to the house on the property adjacent. It leaned heavily to the left, a weary structure built in the 1800s. Whatever pride it once had was replaced by a look of surrender. Its roof caved in and the eyebrows over the windows knitted together like a desperate and troublesome soul.

Its foundation sat on a leech field, long before there were township regulations against that. The current Toledo building codes wouldn’t allow the owners to try to reconstruct it. The monstrosity needed to be torn down.

So why don’t they, already? I thought every morning, frowning at the eyesore.

Even worse was the backside of the house with its sagging porch loaded with piles of crap from renters who had left long ago.

Couldn’t the owners at least clear out the junk? And those Easter baskets!

There had to have been six Easter baskets stacked on top of each other, the multi-colored plastic, decorative grass swaying in the breeze. My head would spin while I served drinks on the nice patio overlooking the neighbor’s dilapidated house vomiting the trash of past renters.


Customers would comment on the blight as I pasted on a smile and acted oblivious to the eyesore next door.

When no one was around, I would scowl at the mess wondering what kind of vermin lived inside. The windows were all broken.

It was probably a zoo in there!

I could see birds huddling in the corners of the sagging porch roof.

Probably pooping on everything! A total feces fiasco! by The Dark Queen on Unsplash

I trained myself to avert my eyes as the hot days melded into the cool nights of Autumn. Before the first snow, the back patio of the bar sat vacant besides the occasional patron stepping out for a smoke.

December came along and Mother Nature had blanketed everything with several inches of snow. On a particularly blue-skied, sunny day, I heard a ruckus coming from the back patio. There was a cocktail of laughter, shouting, and whooping.

My stomach clenched.

Please don’t let it be a fight!

I steeled myself for the worst and burst through the outside door.

A group of my customers were grinning, pointing up to the tree limbs above us.

“Look, Tracy!” one of them yelled.

Warily, my gaze followed his finger and I laughed. There were several bird nests in the tree, sparkling in the sunlight. Confused, I peered closer. The birds had used the plastic grass from the Easter baskets and wove them in an intricate pattern, along with the twigs and other materials to build their nests. They were glittery hot pink, shimmering lime green, and a luminescent lavender.

And they were gorgeous!

My heart filled with joy and wonder.

One of the customers cried, “The birds are decorating for Christmas!”

I had to blink back tears.

The bar owner came out to make sure everything was okay. When she saw the artwork the birds had made out of the trash next door, she proclaimed it a Christmas miracle. She bought the house a round and we all did a shot of Crown Royal to mark the occasion.

When Springtime came, the house was torn down. I was surprised to find myself misty-eyed. I had seen amazing beauty come from the ugliest of places.

And I was sad to see it gone.

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Tracy explores the world with a positive eye, an open heart, and a sprinkling of humor. Without laughter, she would be lost.

Onsted, MI

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