I came home to a large package at the front door.
It's not Christmas or my birthday.
No Amazon Prime binge in a while.
What is this?
Intrigued, I glanced at the return address.
Mary Ellen in Washington, D.C.
I knew I was in for something spectacular because everything Mary Ellen does is just that.
We've been friends for over forty-five years. She's really my sister Meg's friend, but she became my friend as well through osmosis.
She's the most unique person I've ever known. Creative, intelligent, hilarious, loyal, savvy business owner of a successful design studio and now oversees an art gallery and an incredible event space. Loves jazz, travel and rescue dogs. I don't believe I've ever seen her frown.
Her extraordinary handwriting (sorry, printing), always in black ink, is worthy of its own personal font.
We don't see each other all that often, but when we do, it's always like we were just drinking a beer from a wooden Kappa mug a few hours ago. Time never really passes.
She's an incredible artist that currently creates re-purposed "boxes" and personalizes them for the lucky recipients. Often she will add a music box mechanism inside. Her evolving artwork always blows me away.
Three months ago, I became a grandmother for the first time. Thus the mystery package. Mary Ellen shipped an original piece of her artwork to commemorate this new chapter in my life. I've been a bit shaky ever since it arrived.
Upon opening this gift, carefully wrapped in shredded colored paper and bubble wrap, my eyes welled up like I'd been wearing a snorkel mask in salty sea water with a pesky leak.
Mary Ellen, I must have done something right in my life to deserve this gift. It came not only from your big, generous heart, creative eyes and artistic hands, but also is a remembrance of your beloved late mother.
A sculpture to be hung on the wall, I shoved another item under a bed to give this beauty prime real estate in our home.
The white base is made from the headboard of Mary Ellen's mother's baby doll bed. It has to be over 100 years old. Do you even know if your mother owned a doll bed? If she did, do you still have it? No, I didn't think so. I have nothing from my mother's childhood besides a few photographs.
She copied a photo of our son, Matt, tenderly holding his daughter in the hospital when she was less than a day old and "found" the brass oval frame. A pink "Pussycat Hat," sewn from a favorite sweater that also belonged to her mother, hangs attached to the bed post. Fiona, our granddaughter's name, was hand-painted on the bed frame.
Mother to daughter, daughter to friend, grandmother to granddaughter. Three generations of life in this work of art. Now do you see how overwhelming it's been to let this all soak in?
To describe the background story of this creation, a recycled "welcome new baby" greeting card was included.
But this isn't just any recycled card. It was postmarked on November 13, 1949 from Watertown, Wisconsin. Note that the postage stamp cost three cents. It was removed from Mary Ellen's baby book, those sentimental keepsakes many of us hang on to. I still have mine, though by baby number three, my mother couldn't keep up with emerging teeth, immunizations and haircuts. I totally understand, dear Boo.
The card was sent by Mr. and Mrs. Herb Baurichter, in care of St. Mary's Hospital, to Mary Ellen's mother and father, to celebrate her birth. Yes, Mary Ellen, you certainly lived up to becoming the "new little Queen of Hearts." I am quite certain Fiona will be up for the challenge to follow in your giant footprints of kindness and love.
The enclosed is a combination of love/history
and our mutual respect for repurposing what came before.
This gift has touched me like no other.
How could you part with these treasures from your mother and your own family history?
But that's just the way she is. Always giving, giving, giving. I certainly hope she's on the receiving end once in a while, though generous souls like her never keep score.
I hope in your lifetime you will be lucky enough to know someone like Mary Ellen. Someone that gives so freely to everyone else a piece of her own life and history. Whether it's an original piece of art, an old greeting card, a favorite book, a quick note, but especially her time.
Last summer she sent me her copy of "Colleen Moore's Doll House," a guide to the permanent exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. She found it in her grade school scrapbook from 1960 and said, "We share a love for magical storytelling."
I know, she's pretty damn special.
She gives without fanfare, then quietly leaves you in a state of awe and wonder.
When the time is right, I will give this piece of art to Fiona and explain to her the story behind your vision, as written in your own baby card, carefully preserved since 1949.
No, I've changed my mind. I'll let you tell her yourself.
Thank you, Mary Ellen.
With so much love and gratitude,
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