A Special Thanks to Julie

We’re Home!

Thank you to all our readers for giving us feedback on our re-runs.  It meant a lot!  I can sum up a 3,000 mile road trip with Hank as “the same mind numbingly bad seven pop songs interrupted by NPR and conversations”.  Oh, the conversations we had. Some I caught and most I let fly out the window.  We had a blast seeing almost everyone we love and then some.

I wanted to take this day to send a personal Thank You out to Julie Rygiel and her family, our hosts for the amazing day we spent in Easton, Pennsylvania and all the wonderful things we’ve learned and more importantly the friends we made.  This isn’t a conversation, but a story.

In February of 2013, deep in procrastination, I wrote a letter to Crayola asking if I could special order a box of only one color of crayon, Robin’s Egg Blue.  Hank and I practically fight over this color that we believe colors the best sky.  The reason for this request is that we do not live in the U.S.  We live in the north of Portugal, where they do not sell Crayola products, so when Hank and I would speed through our only Robin’s Egg Blue crayon down to the nub we have to beg family and friends to send us a whole new 64 box of crayons to get another one…  well the cost of this color was mounting.

Months back instead of working on my article submission I decided to practice a good dose of structured procrastination and hit the Crayola website ultimately sending an email requesting the ability to purchase a box of just this one color.  With the email sent I went back to my article and my life and for a couple weeks and got some stock customer service replies bouncing my request around.  I assumed that nothing would come of my email and I would just get lost in the shuffle.  Heck, Crayola is a big deal.  I am only a mom making a random request from abroad.  Nothing special.

Then I got this email:


I have great news.  I have acquired a handful (41 to be exact) of the
coveted Robin’s Egg Blue for your use.
I’ll be sending them to you today.
Let me know when you receive them.
Thank you for your continued interest in Crayola.
Julie Rygiel

International Marketing Coordinator
Crayola, LLC

Imagine my face, knee deep in normal daily email drudgery, answering this and forwarding that, when -BAM- a bit of amazingness popped into my day.  WHAT THE WHAT?  I believe I asked if I was being punked.  I only wanted to buy some crayons and now here I am getting free crayons from the company that sold me pure happiness as a child.  Call me a geek, call me a Crayola slut, but this was solid gold.

Then imagine a couple weeks later when my apartment buzzer pulls me out of the shower, hair in a turban, in order to get yelled at by my postman that he had come on Friday to (I was out of town for work) because I had missed this very important package from America.  And when I saw a HUGE box from Crayola I defended myself saying it was indeed very important, but that I had no idea it would be so very largely important.

There is a reason Christmas is such an enchanting idea.  The idea that there exists a magical man who feels children are so important that he makes them special gifts and treats and knows how to honor them with the exact thing that can validate and make them know that they are loved.

This was exactly that kind of package.  Not just the crayons, Julie sent Hank a tall box of markers and kits with clay and a spiro-graph and dry erase crayons and a board and the list goes on and on. I knew my kid was going to flip out, because I was flipping out.


And so I wrote this back to Julie:

Good morning Julie!
Well, yesterday was so much fun I have very few words, mostly only feelings, thank you.  
Here is Hank’s actual face when he saw your gifts.  
(Picture the aftershave scene from Home Alone, only replace the pain with pure joy)
And here is our conversation:
We will always remember this day.

All the best to you from across the sea.

I sent Julie a photo of Hank that I took as he saw the gifts she had sent him.  And then Julie wrote me back a few weeks later that Hank had made the Crayola Newsletter and he got to take the newsletter to school the following day to show his class and say, “Look at this, I am an artist, and being an artist is important.”

That was a bigger gift then any actual art supply.

It is so rare that an artist really gets to feel that what they do is important. When you have an interest in art you are more often then not redirected, told you should like something else, pointed out that you are also talented in other ways and sometimes even told that being an artist will have you amount to nothing or that making art is selfish and you will be a burden to your family.

Kids who play sports get free gear, but you never hear of kids who love art getting showered with supplies.

Well, you didn’t until today.

I didn’t think I could thank Julie properly, but Hank and I made some drawings and I did what my grandma taught me to do when you receive: you always show gratitude and dash off a little note.

This summer Hank and I were blessed to return to America for a whole month and while I was planning our trip I realized we would be rolling right through, Easton, Pennsylvania, the home of Crayola Crayons and The Crayola Experience.

Some kids dream of Disney Land, but I knew this was Hank’s dream.

I sent Julie another email, asking if she would like to meet for coffee so I could shake her hand and thank her in-person for the important and non-intrinsic gifts she had given to Hank and to me.

She replied said she would meet us at The Crayola Experience and man was I glad she did.

On a personal day Julie and her family toured The Crayola Experience with us on one of the busiest days of the year.  I am not good in a crowd and very soon upon arrival, perfect strangers became friends as they helped steer and navigate the hoard of people through multiple floors of ART and young artists.

I have not a bad thing to say about the Crayola Experience.  It was a magical place full of exploration and artistic discovery and I could not have done it without Julie and her husband.  We laughed about everything, took turns steering our boys through the maze of people, got to know each other and in four hours I not only felt exhausted, but also felt as if I had known them for years.

And it wasn’t until the parking lot that Julie told me the following (paraphrased)

We are launching over 40 new products in 2014.  We work incredibly hard at Crayola to make new and exciting products for kids, but it wasn’t until your letter, hearing about Hank and his love for art that myself and a lot of my colleagues got it.  We have your letter, your drawings and Hank’s picture framed at Crayola and now we have a face, a person, to make things for.  Because we know about Hank we know who we are truly working for.  So thank you.

Thank me… Me?

Julie’s generosity, meeting her and her family, our day together leave me in awe of the power of a single question.  A simple request in an hour of procrastination.

What a journey that silly query has made.  “May I please buy a box of robin’s egg blue crayons,” has turned into an international tale of UPLIFTING A YOUNG ARTIST.  A five year old artist.  Who because of a simple question and a kind person and dedicated employee now knows that what he does is important.  My son knows that his drawings have made Julie’s life better.  He knows that.  She taught him that.

It is very rare these days that an young artist feels appreciated.  Artist all do what we do because we are compelled to do so.  It is down right mind boggling that a busy employee can take the initiative within a huge company like Crayola not only to see, but support and pass along their appreciation to Hank.  After leaving Easton, Julie and her family I was still in shock.  For Julie and her family the price of that day was very small (because unexpectedly Julie picked up our entire bill), but for us that day is utterly priceless.

Next time you need to choose an art supply or gift please think about choosing Crayola, because they truly do see you, because they saw Hank.