Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bringing Smiles to N. America, One Photo at a Time

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.” (Dr. Seuss)

We are home for a day. Back from one art show, getting ready for another. Just enough time to change the kitty litter, restock our inventory, and jot down a few words.

Our Spokane show was a success, in spite of a new booth location a few acres beyond the back forty. We adopted many of our photographs into good homes. As usual, “Leap of Faith” was the top seller, and it did a good job getting everyone to smile and laugh in our booth. If life is a give and take, then there’s lots of living going on in our booth.

Indoor Booth (c) 2009 John AshleyWhile we were telling stories and packaging up photographs, hundreds of people took the time to share little bits of their life stories with us. We met Justin, a gallery owner with enough ideas and energy to make me feel like an old man. And Tracy, a young photography student, who felt so inspired that she worked up the courage to ask if she could correspond with me as she works her way along her own photographic journey. (I happily agreed.) And Marilyn, a lovely spirit who related our Eagle photograph to a recent personal tragedy in her life. Her story tugged on my heart, but she stood with an inner peace and quiet grace.

And then there was Bette. For many years now, Bette and Grace have been two of our biggest fans and best customers. Every year at the Spokane show, we would watch for the two of them working their way through the crowd as they zeroed in on our booth. Hugs and squeals all around, and then Bette would produce a fresh loaf of homemade bread from her bag – a treat we would savor. Then they would take their time, pouring over everything in our booth, telling everyone within earshot that they, too, needed to have one of these or two of those. But their zeal for life was most evident in the loving banter that bounced between the two of them like a tennis ball at Wimbledon. They are “Friends for Life” like you’ve never seen.

But this year was different. As Bette zeroed in on us with hugs, Grace was missing. Instead, Bette was searching the show with her daughter, worrying aloud that she might not find us -- and then what would she do with the loaf of fresh bread hidden away in her bag? I waited as long as I could, but I had to ask about Grace. As a few tears escaped, Bette explained that Grace is no longer able to walk through the show. Medical issues have taken Grace’s memory, and she would no longer recognize us. All of the unknowns would be overwhelming for Grace, and all the joys of “Girls’ Day Out” will live on in Bette’s memory alone.

In spite of her heartbreak, Bette pushed through. She awoke Sunday morning, baked a perfect loaf of cracked-wheat honey sourdough bread, and drove off in search of her “artist friends.” She poured over every image in our booth, picked out a photograph, and declared that we had made her day. She floated away, happy, smiling – and unaware that I had slipped a package of greeting cards into her bag while she wasn’t looking. They’ll show up when she gets back home. Maybe she’ll write a note to Grace, and maybe the photograph on front will make Grace smile. I sure hope so.

This morning, back in our Montana home, we smiled silently while savoring our “Bette Bread” toast for breakfast. Love shows up in many forms.

No comments:

Post a Comment