SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO/ Copyright: RoJo Images
It started over 20 years ago, first with a giraffe, then an elephant, and the final insult was the hippopotamus. During a brief period of unemployment, I kept my idle hands busy crafting rural mailboxes for us and our neighbours in the shapes of wild animals using leftover wood and paint from our ongoing renovation projects.
And within weeks of installing them at the end of our street along the now defunct postal delivery route, the giraffe had his wooden legs ripped off and the elephant, with feet made of PVC tubing, was decapitated. The purple hippo hung on valiantly for another week before, as I left for work one morning, I found that it was completely gone, removed from the supporting base. At that point, I threw in the towel and re-installed my ugly, rusted metal mailbox.
I was reminded of the mailboxes recently when, during a conversation with my mom who had just moved into a seniors’ facility asked, “What happened to my St. Francis of Assisi statue?”
Received as a gift from a friend, the 2-foot tall stone figure of the patron saint of animals and the natural environment had stood sentry in her garden for years. In the downsizing of her move that saw me inherit all manner of household items I really didn’t need, St. Francis ended up on my front lawn, nestled into a small plot of perennial shrubbery, next to a vintage birdhouse and some driftwood from Lake St. Louis, then promptly forgotten about.
“It’s sitting out on my lawn,” I told my mom as the little voice inside my head began to ask when I had really actually last seen it.
As soon as I hung up, I grabbed the flashlight and headed outside to double-check and Francis was nowhere to be seen. A fury that initially hatched two decades ago reignited as I determined that once again, I had become the target of what was likely a teenage prank and though the mailboxes were hardly works of art, they were cute enough that cars used to stop at the end of the street to let their toddlers look at the colourful animals. Grudges, like spite, are not to be underestimated.
I debated filing a police report (overkill) or launching a social media campaign (backfire potential) and instead, just left a note for my husband asking him to keep an eye out for it on his early morning run.
A few years ago, I received a police report from a West Island SPVM station advising residents that police had located a trove of 31 stolen garden statuettes and figurines in Alexander Park. The report went on to describe how many victims of the thefts may not have noticed their gnomes were homeless and were invited to contact police to see if they were amongst those recovered.
I had visions of St. Francis of Assisi bound and gagged, waiting for an unknown ransom to return him to his spot on my lawn, guarding the animals and environment of suburbia. I thought of Leopold, the garden gnome who was kidnapped (gnomenapped?) from his Victoria, B.C. Home and photographed in myriad worldwide locales on a 7-month odyssey before being dropped off at his home replete with a hardcover chronicle of his travels.
I awoke the next morning to the mystery solved – Frank's concrete base had crumbled from prolonged exposure to the elements and he was lying in a shrub, face down in the mud.
“He's still there,” read my husband's note in response. “He's resting. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz....”