Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Strange Story of the Lost Umbrellas

One of the lost umbrellas looked like this one.  Isn't the inside beautiful?  They are not made in China, oddly enough.

Some years ago, I saw something in a decorating magazine, or in an advertisement--it is enough years ago that I can't remember where exactly--that I liked so much I began looking for something like it on the Internet.

It was an old-fashioned waxed umbrella or parasol from Asia, and I thought it might be a handy thing to have in Florida, what with all that sun.  Or it might be just a lovely object d'art to use in an empty corner of the house. I found a little company on the Internet that sold them, ordered a couple for me, and sent a couple to my friend Holly, a chic retiree who lives in South Florida and who loves beautiful things.  She needed a lift at the time. Or a waxed umbrella, as it were.

It isn't as if one needs something like this:  but you could get two of them for $24, and both inside and out, I just loved the way they looked.

But try as I might, and I tried several times, the umbrellas never did arrive at her house in Gulf Stream, Florida.  It might have been the company in Asia having difficulty with the English address.  Or it might be that there were several streets in her town with similar names.  But after several tries, and several exchanges of emails, and more than one attempt by FedEx or UPS (can't remember which) to deliver these two unnecessary things--both the company and I gave up.

My friend never received as much as a knock at the door.  I cancelled the order.  The company apologized and gave me a credit.

I never found a real use for either one of mine.  I figured I would look pretty silly walking to the mailbox on a sunny day carrying a waxed Asian parasol. I'm pretty eccentric, but this seemed even beyond me.

I never found the right ceiling light to hang one from, for that romantic glow we all thought so charming when we were about twenty.

But I did move them to California with me, and put them in a corner near the front door, where they now sit. I pull them out from time to time because they are so darned pretty, and the workmanship is so quirky and old-fashioned, like the inside of a really well-made kite. They aren't made in China. They come from Malaysia or somewhere really exotic like that.

The umbrella has a little cardboard nozzle or o-ring that fits around it to keep it closed and is attached by a string. So cool.

So wonderfully low tech.

Funny thing.  Today the phone rang at 9:00 a.m. and it was my friend Holly from Florida.  Since both her sister and her ex husband are ill, I feared the worst.

But it wasn't the worst.  It was the waxed umbrellas!

A man arrived at her front door with a package he had found in his basement.  He thought his wife had ordered it and she thought he had. Neither ever did anything about it, until today. The family is moving and the man looked at the box carefully and noted that the package was for someone named Holly.  He checked the address again, found the similarities, found her house, and knocked on her door.

She opened the door, but was afraid to unlock her screen until he launched into his story and the whole thing began to seem that it was just strange enough to be true.

When she finally opened the box, it said it was from Robin Chapman, in Winter Park, Florida.  The date on the receipt? September, 25, 2007!

So the two waxed umbrellas only took four years to get to Holly.

Thus, on this beautiful Saturday morning, from the South Coast of Florida to the West Coast of California two friends had a good laugh that was four years in the making.

It was quite a treat for just twenty four dollars. Now if I could just find that four year old receipt ...

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Devon C. said...

That's too funny.

Robin Chapman said...

Funnier still, I can't remember if I had to pay for them or not and the receipt--two or three moves ago now--is Gone With the Wind.

Thaddeus said...

Love reading your blog, Robin! Always something interesting, like this cheerful story. I agree that these umbrellas are masterpieces of design and manufacture.

Robin Chapman said...

And they seem to be the gift that keeps on giving. My sister pointed out that the man was very kind to take the trouble to find Holly while he was busy cleaning his house to move--and that makes the story even better. He was nice wasn't he?