Ian and Diannes Snowy Front Yard

Ian and Diannes Snowy Front Yard. Images by Denise Stoughton

Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night (...but mostly snow)

It’s not the size of the gift, the size of the price tag or even the size of the delivery person that matters, it’s the size of a person’s heart that counts. Ian Forbes’ wife…

It’s not the size of the gift, the size of the price tag or even the size of the delivery person that matters, it’s the size of a person’s heart that counts.

Ian Forbes’ wife had instructed him not to buy her anything for Valentine’s Day, but any god-fearing husband knows better! By way of a quiet heartfelt gesture, Ian purchased a small hand-made air plant holder from the Currents Marketplace of Arts & Humanities Bainbridge so his wife Dianne could relocate one of her many air plants to a new vessel. This purchase checked two important boxes for Ian – surprise Dianne, support a local artist.

Knotty Boy air-plant holder

“Thank you for ordering the Knotty Boy air-plant holder!” I exclaimed in my email to Mr. Forbes. This item was part of the Knotty Boys and Good Burls collection.

As a long-time designer and passionate product developer, I never lose sight of the simple but important fact that people buy my products. On the other end of every order is a person who felt what I created might be the perfect item for their home.

Mr. Forbes was fairly flexible on delivery, replying, “Yes, please drop it off before Sunday, as it is a Valentine’s gift for my wife.”

When you’re a one-woman business, the workweek is a blur of disparate tasks and do-or-die deadlines so it was late Friday evening when I realized there was only one day left to deliver Dianne’s surprise gift, and as luck would have it, Saturday was predicted to be the Mother of all days – Snowmageddon 2021!

Dianne Forbes on Snowshoes in their yard

With the bravado of a true New Yorker (we know everything, are tough as nails and snow? Ha, 12-inches of the fluffy white stuff ain’t nuthin’), I woke up early Saturday morning to make my special delivery – no biggie.

Armed with an ice scraper, snow brush and a bad-ass attitude, I made easy work of digging my newly acquired Isuzu Trooper out of a snow drift – my first vehicle with four-wheel drive! I felt like a rock star as I fired up the engine.

Ian’s special gift to Dianne sat on the passengers’ seat next to Milo, my chihuahua who was smartly dressed in a camo puffer jacket. Milo looked mostly excited but also slightly hesitant to embark on his first big snow adventure. As we settled in, it occurred to me, I’d never actually used the four-wheel drive and wasn’t sure how to turn it on. There were several unfamiliar buttons and an extra gearshift. I looked at Milo – for reassurance? I desperately wanted to be the human he believes me to be and the New Yorker I truly am, so I skipped the four-wheel drive and put the Trooper in reverse.

After several failed attempts to back out of my parking spot (I’m sure I would have had it on the next one), a capable looking man appeared and knocked on my driver’s side window, “Need some help?”

New Yorkers (and especially women) understand there’s no shame in an assist, “uh, yeah, maybe just help me figure out how to turn on the four-wheel drive?”

I hopped out, the guy hopped in, assessed the array of buttons and gears and said: “Do you really need to go somewhere because if you do, I have a diesel truck and would be happy to give you a lift.”  He pointed across the parking lot and sure enough there’s a legit badass truck, a gleaming silver chariot with big fat wheels.

“By the way, my name is Rich and I’m your neighbor” – good enough for me.

I swiftly tucked Milo under one arm, the Knotty Boy under the other and crunched snow toward my chariot with the physical, nonverbal satisfaction of a small child who has just learned to put away things like a big girl. All the while I’m chatting Rich’s poor ears off about, “How cool is this? OMG thank you for helping! Your truck is awesome!” And of course, explaining my special Valentine’s Day delivery in justification of why I’m single-handedly battling Snowmaggedon.

Rich’s truck loomed larger than life as I approached the passenger side door. I  stretched almost beyond my reach to grasp the door handle. Weirdly, the thought of how helpful pointe shoes would be crossed my mind and the incongruity of diesel and dance and the improbability of the entire situation provided a moment of amusement as I looked up at the cab and mentally calculated all the maneuvers necessary to get myself and my charges launched from the ground onto the big boy seat.

Getting myself up into that cab was unlike any ballerina move I’ve ever seen and more like hoisting a loose sack of potatoes over a wobbly fence. With all potatoes accounted for, I nodded awkwardly at Rich, and we set off on an exquisitely beautiful, quiet, snow softened ride through Bainbridge Island.

Arriving at our destination I asked Rich to stop at the foot of the Forbes’ long, uphill driveway or at least what I assumed would be their driveway as everything was blanketed in a foot of untouched snow. Neighbors were emerging outside with children and sleds, and I could see the incredulous looks on their faces at the unlikely sight of this truck which had made it down their unplowed dead-end street.

By now I felt like a kid myself. It had become more than the special delivery, more than my own determination, more than the kindness of the person who helped get me there, more than the beauty of our island and more than the sight of families playing in the snow – such is the feeling of a full and complete heart. And so, it was with unmeasured love and joy that I trudged up the hill to the Forbes’ doorstep – still holding Milo in one arm and the Knotty Boy in the other, wearing a furry alpaca hat and ridiculous smile.

I’m sure we were quite the site when Dianne opened the door wide to reveal Ian standing behind her. “Special Valentine’s Day delivery!” was all this woman could think to say knowing that this moment would likely be more memorable than the gift. I told her it was supposed to be a surprise from her husband, and Ian piped in to say she couldn’t open it till the following day. She apologized to me that she couldn’t open it in my presence, but by then I had all the thanks I needed and understood as deeply as I ever have that it is truly better to give than receive and that the spirit Valentine’s Day or any other is what we imbue it to mean. I couldn’t measure the size of everyone’s heart that day, only my own and legit, it was huge.


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ABOUT DENISE STOUGHTON INSPIRED by globe-trotting, day tripping, found objects and high fashion, Denise has been designing home decor for two decades. Originally from the island of Manhattan, she traded concrete and glass skyscrapers for skyscrapers of the deciduous and coniferous variety and now lives happily on Bainbridge Island with her Chihuahua, Tula. Interior Design has and always will be her first love. She studied (and later, taught) at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Denise writes a blog for Mercury Michael and is also a member of AHB’s Public Art Committee – placing public art in public spaces.