So, if you haven't seen a snow globe like we make them, let me explain. We take real glass globes and high-end bases (faux stone, wood or polished metal) and we seal people's photographs inside them. If someone just wants a wet photo frame, they can get one of those slot-based plastic deals at a discount store and switch photos out as the mood strikes. Ours don't work that way; we recreate the photos sent to us, reproduce them so they will hold up in the liquid, select the perfect confetti or sparkles to go with the picture and create a one-of-a-kind custom snow globe. To order one of our globes, you have to be committed to the images inside. Fickle people need not apply.
Now, a lot of photos we receive are what you’d expect: happy families, award-winning pets and small children playing a variety of sports, images of trips taken, and so on. But on occasion we get a photo that is perplexing. We don’t know why the cat is wearing a tiara, or who the guy is with the pitchfork and we never find out.
A while back, this photo comes in, and it’s a street in some small town and there are shops on both sides of the street and a larger brick building in the background. You can see a dusting of snow on the ground and a few footsteps here and there in the snow. The building is just plain old red brick, symmetrical windows, nothing dazzling. No people, no pets, nothing that stands out. And the instructions are something like, “do not crop the brick building.”
Of course, design-wise, that’s just what would make sense, to cut a little off the edge of the building to make everything proportional and focus on the charming little wintery shops in the foreground, but we don’t crop anything without instructions from the customer, so we start making the globe.
Another email comes asking if we can rush it. Now, most of the time, except maybe when we are making custom made snow globes for holiday gifts and Mother’s Day, we can get a globe out in a few days. When we are slammed with a lot of orders, sometimes it takes a week. But right then, we had a few orders ahead of hers, so we wrote back and asked when she needed it. Usually when there’s a rush, it’s a birthday party snow globe, or for someone’s retirement or a snow globe for a wedding gift or graduation – there’s an event date that needs to be met and we will do everything we can to get it in someone’s hands when they need it.
The next email explained it all. The globe was being bought by the employees of a small company, everyone had chipped in a few bucks to purchase it. It was a gift for their boss, who had treated them all like family, kept them on payroll through thick and thin times, shared their ups and downs and celebrations and sorrows for many years. He had never married, had no children, and his employees became his surrogate family as he remembered their birthdays and anniversaries and sent cards and checks out when their children graduated high school. He danced at their weddings, and the weddings of their children, and wanted to hear about the new babies and eventually grandbabies of everyone on the staff. He kept a big bulletin board outside his office where he posted photos of everyone that worked for him, and everyone related to them, even their pets. I didn’t even know this guy and already I wanted to work for him.
The photo was still a mystery, but she explained: the non-descript brick building in the photo had been built by his grandfather and it was a source of great pride for him. It was the company headquarters. He had started to work in that building when he was just a teenager, and had worked there every day well into his 90s.
And he was dying of inoperable cancer.
The employees wanted to give him something special while he was in the hospital and they unanimously agreed that the image of his grandfather’s building, with the gentle snow swirling around was perfect. One of the employees had ventured out early in the morning to take the shot before the streets were busy with pedestrians and cars that might block the view. During hospital visits, he had mentioned several times that he wanted to see his grandfather’s building again, and it pained him that he couldn’t see it from the hospital. He’d spent most of his life in that building, building a business to make his grandfather proud.
So, the woman continued in her note, since his situation had worsened in the last few days, it would be very nice if we could get the snow globe out as soon as possible so they could fulfill his wish to see the building again. They didn’t know how long he had left.
There wasn’t a person here who didn’t clear the way to get that snow globe out on the fastest track possible.
And although her last email to us was short, it told us what we all wanted to know. “The snow globe arrived today, thank you so much. It is beautiful and arrived safely and perfectly. We were able to deliver it in person on Christmas Eve and he cried when he saw it was his grandfather’s building. In fact we all cried a little bit, but in a good way.
He is keeping it on his bedside tray and the nurses all know to give the globe a little shake for him whenever they stop in his room. You probably don’t know how much this means to him, but a big thank you from all of us.”
I wanted to write her back and become her email penpal, and find out what happened next. Did he find a miraculous cure and somehow rebound, or did he pass away peacefully surrounded by the employees who considered him their adoptive grandpa? Did the business survive? How was everybody doing?
But in the bigger scheme of things, you don’t always find out what happens next. We had done what was asked of us, and got the globe to him so they could share that.