When Samantha 1st went away to school she went to UMD, which is 3 hours from us. She left in the middle of August to be in marching band, it was a couple weeks before school actually started. The band kept her extremely busy w/constant practice and Samantha had never been away from home that long before (well, except when we went to Ireland but she wasn’t alone, Rob, Bob and I were there as well). She is by far the most family addicted person I’ve ever met. I know, figure that one out. Extremist family-addict is the one who banishes herself from the county for 11 months. Anyway, Samantha was over tired, she was crabby, she had a room mate from hell and she was very homesick. She also wouldn’t be able to come home until Thanksgiving because of the marching band schedule. The 1st day of school coincided with my niece, Grace’s, birthday party. Before heading to the party I grabbed my camera and wrote up some encouraging signs because I thought I had a great idea. At the party I took pictures of family members holding the signs, printed them and snail mailed them to Samantha. In those original photos the backgrounds look a little shoddy because my parents were repainting and re-wallpapering and there is a red strip of cloth in each photo that someone decided had to be in every photo. I don’t know the reason behind that one but there it is. That’s my family.
Samantha received the photos and apparently they only added to her homesickness. There were her loved ones all gathered without her. Right, toss me into the “bad mom” category. I felt awful. Then I did the math. Okay, if seeing family members holding encouraging signs make her sad……then it would make sense that….complete strangers holding random signs wouldn’t make her sad at all. It works, right? I thought of that one day and it happened to be the day I was going to sub for my mom’s card club in the evening. Again, I whipped up some signs and grabbed my camera and headed out. The 2nd set of signs were still a bit encouraging, I hadn’t perfected my skill yet. Yes, the ladies were very surprised when I told them I needed to take their picture holding a sign so I could send it to my homesick daughter who didn’t know them. Lots of people just don’t understand my logic. I printed those photos and snail mailed them off to Samantha as well. She understood my logic and appreciated the humor.
Third thought: why have random sayings on the signs when they could all be family jokes? There ya go. I made more signs and I took them and my camera to both jobs. I called Alex and Shannon and asked them for more family sayings, made more signs, sent my camera and some signs to work with Shannon, sent my camera and signs to my brother’s shooting club. I took my camera everywhere (when I hadn’t sent it w/someone else). My niece in Michigan (Officer Kellly) emailed me photos of her and her loved ones in MI, w/signs. My brother-in-law, then in GA, sent photos of his dog with signs. I re-included family members holding signs because the new ones would make Samantha laugh. No more “I miss you” or “I love you” signs, these were more likely to say “cheap art” or “I eat glue”. I included Boo and Lacey in the photos blaming things on each other. That 3rd thought took off like a rocket. I wish I ‘d have thought sooner that each and every one of them needed to be different from the rest but live and learn. There are a lot of repeats in the middle.
In November that year a very dear friend of mine was coming to MN for a short visit from MT where he’d moved about 25 years previous. He was bringing with him his lovely bride. My sister and I had contacted some of the people in that are still in this area that we hung out with way, way back when and we arranged a night for all of us to get together at my sister’s house. That night is another story and it was a blast and I came prepared to this event with my camera and new signs. Samantha was due home for Thanksgiving soon and I’d decided that she would survive the semester and before she came home I gave her a grand finale from my friends that gathered that night. Samantha’s middle name is Robin. She loves her middle name. My ring tone for her, at the time, was Brave Sir Robin from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The last snail mail she received from me before she came home was the entire Brave Sir Robin song, via signs, as held by my friends from my teen years :o) The entire collection of people and signs are all in my “Dear Samantha” photo album on FB. I had a great time, Samantha had a great time (she put the pictures up on her dorm wall) and I can’t thank everyone enough for letting me (or Shan or Bob) take their photo holding a sign that made absolutely no sense to them.
Second semester I knew she’d be fine. Someone at B&N showed me a book of postcards entitled “Grandma’s Dead; Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals”. Something like that. It was hysterical! The cover showed a postcard of the sweetest little puppy and across the bottom it said, of course, “Grandma’s Dead”. I bought the book of postcards thinking that I’d send it to Samantha, knowing she’d get a kick out of it. Then I had a better idea. I know, my 1st thought isn’t always my best but they do give birth to better. I decided that I’d make sure that everyone wrote to Samantha by having everyone she loves fill out the back of whichever postcard they chose. I addressed them and stamped them but everyone had to write on one. Imagine a postcard with a picture of baby chicks in an Easter basket and across the bottom it says “It’s syphllis” or a photo of a baby bunny and across the bottom it says “You’re Fired” or a picture of some really cute kittens doing something funny and across the bottom it says “I’m leaving you”. They were so funny, baby beagles letting you know “You’re the father” or baby geese letting you know that “You’re not the father” lambs letting you know “The donor backed out”. The humorous point of the postcard book was to soften the blow of bad news. My humorous point in having them all sent to Samantha was making her laugh. It worked.
Samantha’s freshman year at UMD ended and of course she survived and she was home for a blink and then off to Germany for a 3 week, some sort of study journey. I just know she got credits for it. At this point I need to introduce Buffy. Buffy is a stuffed dog. When Samantha got him she was 5 and he was almost as big as she was. He has slept with Samantha every night since then. He used to be white. He is well loved and on this trip to Germany, Buffy is with Samantha. On her 1st trip to Germany I was asked to babysit him. No time to mail I kind of gave Samantha a photo diary of Buffy’s time in her absence. I have a teddy bear who, apparently, is pretty good friends w/Buffy. I posted a new photo every day on what Buffy was doing in her absence. Buffy and my teddy bear went to the grocery store, went to story time at B&N, hung out on the deck, read books, played wii, came to work with me, etc.
When I took them to B&N I set them up at a table in the cafe and asked Rob if he would watch them while I ran in back to check my schedule. Rob was mortified. He thought I was asking him to sit with them. Hahahaha! No, just please make sure no one walks away with either of them. When I came back out the boys were still at their table and Rob was a few aisles away, peering at them on the pretense of reading the book he had in his hands. That’s just cute. When I went to the grocery store with them and brought them in with me, Rob wouldn’t hang with me :o) I propped them in a grocery cart and took their photo and got lots of strange looks. Only one person was actually brave enough to approach me and ask me why I was doing what I was doing. Ya gotta love people like that. As quietly as I could I answered her and showed her the photos I’d taken previously. Very, very quietly. If you’re not brave enough to ask, I’m not going to let you eavesdrop. Yep, I’d rather let you believe that I’m a lunatic than to shout out loud why I’m doing what I’m doing if you’d rather point and whisper than ask me. I can even act on it.
Completely off subject. That statement just reminded me of this. This is probably the only time in my life that I’ve ever “gotten” my dad. When I was 19 or 20 I met my dad for lunch at a local restaurant. My dad not so much, but I can be very animated when I talk. I don’t know if it was that or suspicious minds and the obvious age difference or what it was that brought my dad and I to the attention of several tables around us. I’m an airport baby. I’m a people watcher even when I’m not bored. It came to my attention that lots of folk were, not staring, but taking quick and repeated suspicious looks at us as we kibbitzed and noshed. I get it. Okay, 1st people are stupid, I look just like my dad and 2nd people are too quick to judge, 3rd, feed me and I’ll give it to you, 4th someone, at some time has to”get” my dad. Pick me! I’ll take advantage if the opportunity presents itself. This was that opportunity. We finished lunch and stood up to leave and I kind of threw myself around his neck and thanked him loudly and rrepeatedly for taking time out of his big, important day for the likes of “lil ol’ me” and let him know that I couldn’t wait until I saw him later that evening (we lived in the same house) and so on. I remember calling him a big, strong, handsome man. I did nothing or said anything inappropriate. I was an adoring daughter, however, I never gave him the “dad” title, or any other title for that matter. Apparently our table neighbors didn’t see me as the adoring daughter . Shame on them. My dad caught on to their (at this point) staring and finally understood and turned beat red. He tried to leave as quickly as he could and I did my best to detain him for as long as I could. Score: dad, eight thousand or so, me, 1. That 1 was everything . Never felt the need to “get” him again.
Anyway, Samantha is now in Germany again for 11 months and is quite homesick and has a giant white wall in her bedroom that she wants to fill w/family photos. My initial thought was negative. Why would I send you family photos if they’ll make you sad and more homesick? Trying to think of a solution and I know that the sign thing is a thing of the past and now she’s thousands of miles away instead of 3 hours I’m not going to send photos of strangers. It came to me one day, I was going to have dinner w/Alex that day so he was the 1st victim. I gave him notice when he picked me up. I’ll give Samantha what she wants, family photos but I don’t want to make her homesick so therefore I’ve given everyone a head’s up and a challenge. I am going to take your picture to send to Samantha but you have to do something in your photo to make her laugh. Sending one each week and I’ve got about 49 or 50 weeks to kill. Alex was great as the 1st victim, Leon was 2nd he completely panicked, which is why I brought props for him. I’ve taken more photos then I’ve posted in the new “Samantha project: Germany” album thus far but I’m not going to post them before she receives them. Right and I’ve purchased tons of cards and again, everyone has to sign one, therefore she gets mail from everyone like the postcard project. Each week Samantha will get a card from a loved one and a photo of another loved one. I don’t match the cards up to the photo. That way she gets 2 people a week.
Right, and don’t ever, ever think that I do these things solely for Samantha. I’ve talked to a few moms who’s oldest children have just gone away for the 1st time. Damn straight we miss them like crazy, even if it’s not the oldest or the 1st time away. Skype is awesome but having a project gives the mom something to do and the child something to appreciate. Projects also always involve siblings who also miss the person in question. But the key term here is “gives the mom something to do”. Samantha and I have both benefited from my little projects in her honor. Keeps me busy trying to think of new things, keeps me in contact w/my family members (I tend to hermit, at times) because I need them for whichever project I’m currently working on and makes Samantha, so far away, look forward to snail mail and makes her laugh when she receives it.
Samantha does need to quit going away by the time I have grandchildren, however, or she will be sorely surprised that I have no time to amuse her, I’ll be busy elsewhere :o) I know, she’s going to hate this ending. She’s already against Shannon and Kevin of maybe producing any offspring because ” I understand the next in line to the the throne thing”. Right, 1st, there is no throne. She’s the baby, she’ll get how additions are the best things in life. Where would the rest of us be if Samantha hadn’t been added?