Yes, Karen, there is a Santa Claus. And he's a drummer.
When I got home last night, it was to a Facebook message from a stranger.
Hi Karen - I'm Todd and I live in Oregon Hill. A friend of mine found a box ripped open and discarded by a trash can in a Jackson Ward alley that was filled with hyacinth and tulip bulbs. Assuming it was discarded, he gave it to me, knowing I'm a gardener. I saw your name on the box and looked it up on Facebook. I just wanted to make sure that they weren't stolen and discarded. If these are yours, I want to make sure to get them back to you. If not, I'll be happy to plant them. I will wait to hear from you before I do. Please let me know and best wishes! Todd
Last week I'd ordered dozens of pink, purple and white hyacinth and tulip bulbs to plant in my tiny front yard to ensure color come Spring. Every day since, I'd been expecting the package, but also allowing for the fact that it's the busiest package delivery time of the year.
Honestly, if Todd hadn't e-mailed me, I wouldn't yet be concerned that they hadn't arrived. Now I was just grateful for the kindness of a stranger and the power of Facebook.
We went back and forth joking about how disappointed the thief must have been when he tore into my package and found nothing but bulbs. After a while messaging, we finally decided to get together today to do the exchange of the purloined bulbs (his phrase and a terrific one). Seems he's on break from work and suggested I meet him at his garden. Once he told me where it was, I knew exactly because I'd seen it so many times.
Across from the Byrd House market is a large lot which I'd always presumed was a community garden plot. Nope, it's Todd's and there he grows eight kinds of garlic, asparagus, onions, hickory nuts (which, he told me, are fabulous for filtering city air) and cherries. And that's just part of it.
"Do you like shiitake mushrooms?" he asked, leading me to what looked like a woodpile. Attached to the oak logs were plump, beautiful shiitakes sprouting and he promptly began cutting them off to go in a brown paper bag for me to take home. All the while, we're talking. He told me his Dad grew up a block away and I told him mine was born a block behind Carytown. We marveled over how much less space people used to require in their houses.
Curious about what he was on break from, I asked. Wouldn't you just know that my bulb savior was not just on the music staff at VCU and UR but a musician in bands I knew of? Once we got to talking about music, we discovered all kinds of minimal degrees of separation. In addition to bulbs, I have some new bands to check out, too.
Before I left, I did two things. I asked for his favorite shiitake preparation and he supplied it, along with the endorsement that it made them taste like bacon. And I hugged him, thanking him for being the kind of person who doesn't just accept someone else's package, but takes the time to play sleuth and good Samaritan.
As far as I'm concerned, Santa lives in Oregon Hill and now we're friends on Facebook.
I got my gift from him, but he won't get his till Spring. I think he'll appreciate a bouquet of tulips.