A little while ago (in a post here) I promised to tell you how I made a new friend, Shirley, in far-off Minnesota, thanks to Hudson’s Bay colours, a Queensborough mailbox, and Meanwhile, at the Manse. On this Good Friday I thought it would be a good time for that story, having been reminded of it by an email from Shirley wishing me a happy Easter. It’s just a little story, but as so many of us are marking Easter and Passover, and spending time with loved ones and friends, I thought it might be a happy glimpse into how the smallest things can bring people together.
It started with a post I did back in October, singling out what I considered then, and still consider, to be the prettiest mailbox in our little village. Why? Because it’s been painted in the Hudson’s Bay stripes, a great, and attractive, Canadian tradition. To further illustrate the Hudson’s Bay colours in that post, I tossed in a picture of a pillar candle and deck of playing cards in those same colours – purchased at the Bay, of course – that Raymond and I have in the Manse’s living room.
In early December, a couple of months after that post appeared, I got this email:
I found your blog while doing a search for Hudson’s Bay pillar striped candles. I fell in love with the look of these candles after seeing them on a fireplace mantle in a Christmas movie several years ago. I have been trying to purchase some ever since. It has become an obsession! I live in Minnesota in the USA and am unable to purchase them from Hudson’s Bay since I don’t live in Canada. I got excited when I found out that some of their items are sold at Lord and Taylor and can be purchased from outside of Canada. Unfortunately, they don’t have the candle on their website and my online chat with customer service wasn’t any help. Do you have any suggestions for somewhere that I can purchase them?
I realize that this question really has nothing to do with your blog except that you had a picture of one of the candles. I will certainly understand if you are unable to respond and I thank you for taking the time to read this.
I thought it was a nice note, and that Shirley sounded like a nice person. I mean, all people who appreciate Hudson’s Bay colours are nice, right? And as it happened, I was able to help her out.
I started by doing my own online search for Hudson’s Bay candles, kind of incredulous that someone living in the U.S. wouldn’t be able to get one there. Sure enough, I discovered that they aren’t available, not even on eBay or Amazon, and that the Bay doesn’t ship to the States. (Which seems rather counterproductive on their part.) So no dice on that front. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
As it happened, Raymond and I were going to be back in Montreal (our home until I dragged him to Queensborough and the house I grew up in) just a few days after I got Shirley’s note. There’s a huge, historic Bay store in downtown Montreal, with a whole boutique of items featuring the iconic Bay stripes – including the pillar candles. So I told Shirley I could pick one up for her and ship it when we were visiting Raymond’s family in the Boston area at Christmas (to save high Canada-to-U.S. shipping charges).
She was so happy! And so we carried through with the plan, picking up a candle for Shirley (and another one for ourselves) that I shipped out to Minnesota from Nashua, N.H., on Boxing Day. (Boxing Day isn’t a holiday in the U.S., so the post offices are open.)
Here is the email I got a few days later:
The candle was in my mailbox when I stopped by it this morning. I took it to work with me as I was so anxious to open my package and see it. It is as beautiful as I knew it would be. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I can’t believe that after all of these years, I own one.
She went on with some personal details about her family and her Christmas, details that were fleshed out more as we exchanged messages about the cost of the candle and the shipping (after which she sent me a money order that went way beyond covering my costs, which she shouldn’t have – Shirley, if you’re reading this, you shouldn’t have!). It was interesting to learn that she, like me, works at an academic institution (the University of Minnesota). And my suspicion that Shirley was a thoroughly nice person was only confirmed the more I got to know about her.
And then a couple of days ago I got an email from her wishing Raymond and me a happy Easter and telling me that she was still enjoying looking at her Hudson’s Bay striped candle. How nice is that?
And how remarkable that two total strangers living a thousand miles apart in two different countries could become friends over a random blog post that, by sheer dumb luck, included a photo of a candle in Hudson’s Bay colours.
A story with a happy ending – just in time for Easter!