By Ellen Nimmo
The other day I came home to a package on my doorstep.
What could it be?
Who is it from?
I fumbled to locate the house key and balancing an overstuffed backpack, two coffee mugs from my car, a book and the unexpected package I scampered into the house to tear open the mysterious lump as soon as possible. You’ll never guess what it was and neither would I.
It was a cross-stitched portrait of Frida Kahlo, framed with an accompanying note. Though my birthday was months ago, the note explained it was a birthday gift and might help me camouflage any accidental or frustration-induced holes in my walls as my home improvement projects wax, wane and flounder. The hilarious thoughtfulness was enough to have me grinning ear to ear.
Pretty cool, huh?
Frida is Frida. But who is the covert gift-giver? Allow me to introduce. . .
We met years ago over email. Emails about files. Refinance files. Refinance files with Fidelity Title to get specific. Who did I meet? Well Alyssa Mastic of course! Alyssa worked at Fidelity as an Escrow Assistant and I think we had our first file together somewhere back in the summer of 2015, it may have very well been in July. She was one of just a few folks at their Portland, Oregon location who worked on refi-files. At that time, I was working as part of the Closing Department at a mortgage company that still signs my paychecks. Huzzah! That department works with a lot of title companies, on a lot of files, but working with Alyssa was different and we all knew it. She tended to have cleaner files and if there were any problems she not only had a bent towards getting them corrected/completed quickly, but she also had an wonderfully refreshing sense of humor and positivity about most everything. The whole team just adored her. However, the day came when she was leaving her post at Fidelity to pursue work using her Law degree. She had gotten a job at a Swedish founded wind turbine installation company, which has an office there in Portland. Anyway, we were all a little heartbroken she was leaving and told Miss Mastic to please keep in touch. We exchanged numbers and occasionally we’d text to catch up on life and she always wanted to hear how her “Funderdome friends” were faring. It was nice keeping in touch. She sent me funny memes and would text me randomly about oddities in Portland. Alyssa just seemed like such a genuinely kind human.
One day, during early September a few years back, Alyssa text me asking, “How far is STL from COMO.” About 2 hours, I replied. “OK, doin’ anything this afternoon?” Umm, not really. . . She said she’d be at Rockbridge State Park around 4 o’clock if I wanted to go for a hike. I was like, wait what? Then I was like, hike?! I love hikes! I told her I’d see her there. My friend Cooper told me not to get murdered.
Solid advice, Coop.
I will say, as a firm disclaimer, that meeting someone in the woods that you’ve never met before except over emails doesn’t sound like the wisest of choices, but in this case I went and it was pretty great (remember the disclaimer folks). We walked a Rockbridge trail and became 3-D friends! I learned Alyssa is tall and pale (she is!) and she has eyes that change colors from green to blue to greyish green-blue. She told me a little about what her new job looks like, how she helps write and interpret contracts for the wind energy turbines the company she works for installs across the country. As we walked along in the woods asking questions and finding out things about each other, it made me chuckle to think this was happening. I mean, who does that?!
After the hike we went to a local brewery and sat outside in the nice weather. I learned all kinds of fun little tidbits about Alyssa and her family. She has a crazy uncle, like most of us. Of three sisters, she’s the youngest. Her dad is a consultant of some sort who loves to sing and watch Jeopardy. Jewell is his hero of heroes which makes me want to meet him somethin’ awful. Her mom has a green thumb and can often be found in the garden and Alyssa sent her a “Goat Gram” for Mother’s Day. I guess Alyssa has a knack for giving good gifts.
It’s still hard to believe our friendship started through some unassuming file work, as we sat behind computers, at different companies thousands of miles, time zones apart. I suspect neither of us had the deliberate intention of making any lasting connection. But, I reckon that’s how life is sometimes.
After all, Frida is Frida. Cross-stitched and reminding me, life can be difficult, peculiar, and full of connections you’d never expect.
Maybe all we need to see from this story is that, on other end of that email is a person with a full life. A life complex with joys, fears, problems, quirks and hopes. A life with family (no matter the shape or size). A life meant for sharing and for good.