The package arrived last week and, I have to admit, I was surprised.
I knew what was in it, of course. It was a painting that my friends Angel, Nora and I co-own. I had it for one year 11 years ago. Then I brought it to Paris, where Angel was living. But Angel had no time to hang the painting. She had just moved to a new condo and was diagnosed with cancer. And so it remained rolled up under her bed for two years. That’s when Nora decided her turn had come — and she was right. Before Angel died, Nora brought the painting to her family home in Vienna and hung it in her mother’s bedroom.
That’s where it remained for seven years.
I didn’t really mind. During those seven years, I started and finished a college program. I moved out of state, met my husband, Peter, moved in with him, then moved again back to the Midwest. There were a lot of changes and a lot of moving, and I knew Nora was enjoying the painting. Then, four years after Angel’s death, after Peter and I had made a new home together, I decided it was time to have the painting again.
Nora was not immediately receptive.
Nora likes her things. This is not a criticism; it’s just how she is. She is a collector. She has a lot of beautiful art and antiques and rocks and crystals. She likes to have her lovely things around her. Sending things away is hard.
This painting, in particular, was difficult to part with because it was a painting of the three of us — Angel, me and Nora. Letting go of this painting felt like letting go of a special time in the past that had been important to us all.
But I still wanted the painting.
I told Nora the time had come, and I would like her to send it. She said she would, but then things came up. There were delays. There were a few excuses. More than a year had passed and, I will be honest, I began to think I would not see it again.
And, honestly, I would have been fine with that.
Because people are more important than things. My friendship with Nora and my memories of Angel were more important than any painting. If getting the painting meant hurting my friendship with Nora, I would do without the painting.
Then, one day, she sent a photo of a large box with my name on it in the arms of an unidentified man in a brown uniform.
“That could be anyone,” my friend, Andrew, said. He has heard every chapter of the painting saga and was more skeptical than I was about it ever arriving.
Then — with no notice at all — it showed up at my door.
It was incredibly heavy. Nora is an engineer, and she had built the box herself. It was made of half-inch plywood and 2x2s and lined with Styrofoam. It looked as if it could safely be launched into space. I had trouble carrying it into the house. It took several tools and a lot of time to open.
Nora is a woman of few words, but I knew what she was saying.
She cared about the painting — but she cared about our friendship even more. She was sending the painting in a way that would keep both the painting and our friendship safe and whole for years to come.
I received both the package and the message. They both made me very happy.