As mentioned last time, this summer I had the opportunity to be part of a very kind and tender event: the parting of very best friends. Dee and Em are the friends and this summer Em's family moved to another city. It's never easy and, when you are only 9 years old it, can be especially difficult.
Dee and her Mom, the Woodland Wizard, were determined to make it a memorable moment and not an ending. The plan was to make a box of special Owl Post stationery for the girls to use to keep in touch. Woodland Wizard, having seen the Owl Post mailbox I'd made and asked if she could use the logo on their stationery.
In this era of easy and gratuitous appropriation of other people's creative work, I was impressed that Woodland Wizard asked me. I am an information specialist and online academic librarian in my day job. My profession holds to a code of ethics; one of its tenets states "We respect intellectual property rights and advocate balance between the interests of information users and rights holders."
So I had to explain that the logo was created using a portion of a copyrighted image which I used for personal/private creative work. I felt that I could not, legally or ethically, share the logo with her. I thanked her for modeling such a good example to Dee and Em by asking my permission. I sent her the link to the original image and noted how she could create her own logo within the confines of the fair use designation.
Woodland Wizard and I had a few more design consultations as well, so that I could get a sense of what she was doing and what I could offer. My original plan was to forage for a few knickknacks from Goodwill or my own stash of miscellaneous art supplies and then put them in a box as I did for another friend's daughters once upon a time.
But the story - the whole purpose of the packages - took over, dictating a different approach. These items weren't to be the artifacts from an archaeological dig or the amused collection from a magical professor. They were to be very special things that commemorated and celebrated a friendship and a parting of friends.
I looked again in the box of oddments I collect for my fictional letter-writing. Found, two of each: plastic turquoise letter opener, small compass, bookplate stickers with an image of a map, key and letter box brass marker, and glass stones. For the rest I visited a nearby World Market store which typically carries a range of this and that which could be translated for my purposes.
I decided to wrap several of the items - in part to keep them from breaking but also just to add to the fun. Who doesn't like to open gifts?
I also kept in mind the girls' interest in all things Harry Potter and included "magic" tree pencils, candies that might have been bought at the Honeydukes sweets shop described in the books, and memory scrolls.
All of the items had to be packaged for proper delivery but, post-Yule season, my art stash was barren of any really cool boxes. Fortunately, our World Market store is next door to a Michaels crafts store. And even more fortunately, Michaels had some very neat book-shaped boxes on sale.
Each set of items, along with a few artsy post cards, were carefully placed within and padded with shredded brown paper.
Then the storytelling began! Taking as my cue Woodland Wizard's suggestion that the owl lockets were from a wizardy jeweler, I imagined these boxes came from a Potteresque mail order company, a kind of non-Muggle food and gifts company. I named it Talisman Trinket, Inc. and, using Word, created an over-sized biz-card enclosure.
Before closing, each box received a sprinkling of multi-colored feathers and was then tied with a satin ribbon (happily found in my sewing supplies case).
The postal wrappings were, as always, heavy brown paper and string. When one is being magical, modern flat-rate boxes just won't do! (Though the finished packages were sent via flat-rate.)
Deemed to be from the Paris location of Talisman Trinkets I affixed postage stamps that I both had in a stash of international stamps and those I found online and printed out. U.S. stamps were included as well on the theory that wizardy types don't quite understand the non-magical U.S.P.S. and so they include postage for the sending and receiving countries . . . just to be on the safe side for delivery. Postal markings were applied.
Then I created the rest of the story with the letters that Dee and Em received along with the packages. The letterhead was a cut-n-paste of the biz-card.
Dear Mademoiselle Dee,
I write you personally to humbly apologize on behalf of Talisman Trinket. I suspect you will immediately notice that the items we have sent you are not the ones you listed on the order you sent us. Please permit me to explain.
Your order arrived per usual and we sent it off to the Trinkets Fulfillment Department (aka TFD). The very same day we received a second order from another customer. That too went to the TFD. Within the hour one of our TFD staff called me to say that she couldn’t fill either request! “Something marvelously magical seems to be in effect,” she said. I rushed to the TFD to see what she meant!
There on the TFD worktable sat the two packages, our only orders for the day. And we could both see that their contents were virtually identical. “Tres impossiblé,” said my assistant, “I have 3 times placed the different items in each box and 3 times the contents have disappeared and been replaced by matching items.”
Mademoiselle Dee, this has never before happened! I took out my wand and called out my strongest DIFFERENTIUM spell. There was a flurry of sparks and then a tiny giggle. I said the spell 3 times more but only more sparks and more quiet laughter. Thinking there was some mistake with my spell (it has been some time since I have used it!), I pronounced the EXPLAINATIONATUS spell to reveal the reason the DIFFERENTIUM spell refused to work. These words formed in the air above the two packages:
Two hearts apart and together be.Two hearts far or near.
I took this to mean that your package and the other, for some reason, are connected to each other, perhaps by a friendship most dear. I believe this to be so, though I, as I have said, we have never witnessed such a thing before. Perhaps you will solve the mystery. (For the magic in the human heart is a mystery indeed!)
With Kind Regards,
Donatella Delilah Donnelly
Orderly Orders Division
Dear Mademoiselle Em,
A most unusual occurrence compels me to include a personal letter for your Talisman’s Trinket, Inc. order. I must confess I did not witness this startling event but my colleague, Madam Donatella Delilah Donnelly is the soul of integrity and I do not doubt what she has told me.
Every other day the Owl Post sends us a dozen or so owls of various sizes to retrieve packages for delivery from our Trinkets Fulfillment Department, aka. the TFD. This morning was no different in that regard. We had only a handful of letters and two packages, one of which was addressed to you, Mademoiselle. Our manager of the Orderly Orders Division said she heard the owls arrive as usual.
“But then, Monsieur,“ she said, “another creature arrived!” Also winged, but larger than any of the owls. “Its feathers were colored like the rainbow,” she said, “It soared through the window of our delivery room, circled once, and then landed gently on the two packages sitting on the table.” It chirruped three times, Madame Donnelly reported, and then rose gracefully into the air.
“While we were all watching,” she continued, “it returned, hovered above the packages with its wings outspread, and then vanished most spectacularly in a bright flash.” A small rain of many-colored feathers fluttered down. But as they landed on the packages, they became a glittering mist and also disappeared.
Nothing happened after that. And since the two packages appeared unchanged, Madame Donnelly allowed the owls to take them for their regular delivery. During our midmorning break of rosemary biscuits and cinnamon tea we discussed what had happened. Mr. McKellen McTavish, our longtime librarian (and founder of Talisman Trinket) informed us that the bird was most likely the rare Avis Graciae (translation: bird of kind bonding; also known an Avis Plurimus Variatus Amicitiae, translation: friendship bird of many colors).
“But the orders were for two different people, “I pointed out. “That’s as may be,” said Mr. McTavish, “but the Avis Graciae knows what it knows. If it chose those two packages, it did so for a reason. Likely the people who placed those two orders know the truth of it bless their hearts!”
So, Mademoiselle Em, I thought you’d appreciate hearing this wonderful tale. I trust the beautiful bird is right, but only you and one other person will ever know.
Paris and Singapore Locations
The packages were sent off with a cover letter to Woodland Wizard that explained the various items. This was in case Dee and Em had questions. Several weeks later I received a lovely thank you note. The girls were utterly delighted, said Woodland Wizard. She also sent along pics of the stationery box she'd made up. And a pic of one of the girls opening her postal package!*
Since then I've heard that Dee and Em did indeed commence writing letters to each other. Though now, with school starting for both, they have been using Skype calls to stay in touch as well.
* Per my policy, children are not identified on this blog. Their names are left out and their images blurred or blocked unless I have permission from the child's parent(s) to show their faces. For this reason I also felt I needed to remove the very lovely initials that Woodland Wizard printed on the envelope back for Em. My apologies to WW for altering her creation.