m wood pen

illustrator of books, cocktails, travel + more

The life of a freelance illustrator is akin to being on a permanent job hunt. My cottage industry, started on a whim, is a proverbial revolving door, with projects and new clients flying in and out, delivering a query, a challenge, some inspiration, plenty of enthusiasm and eventually, a check in the mail. Whimsy, luck, …

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04/09/2012

 m wood cafefor years, i owned-designed-ran a prominent notecard company, one of those little “cottage industries” that are a dime a dozen nowadays.

stacks and stacks, thousands of offset print inventory bedecked with my whimsical little illustrations stood at the ready in the high basement of my renovated farmhouse in the village.  boxes and boxes of envelopes, packing tape galore, stacks of pens and order forms, shipping cartons, a wrapping center, and an innovative device called a “cd player” to offer musical entertainment.  all just a few short steps downstairs from my kitchen.  what a buzzing, humming hive of fun!

neighbors, typically destitute single moms like me, walked over after dropping their children off at school, creating my little enclave of busy bees chatting, answering phones, packing orders, personalizing invitations, packing and shipping orders.

and colluding.

birds of a feather and all that, we single moms did stick together.  i’m sure you’ve all heard of a phone tree: that set up designed to relay vital school information such as a snow day or church on fire to alert parents of a change in their children’s schedule.  nowadays, it’s text and twitter and group email blasts, totally convenient but yep, a bit impersonal.

well, our little collective of gals, scraping dollars together to get enough food at the market to feed the brood, had our own inventive phone tree.

this involved the water man, from the village.  sure enough, that bill was due like clockwork, was it once a month or once a quarter?  i have no clue from this safe distance of time, but back in those days, the phone would ring with vigor: the water man from the village is coming down north avenue to shut off the water!  you could almost hear the devilish, foreboding musical theme song to his shark-like arrival.

of course, none of us had paid our bills.  times were tough, a budget was a challenge to meet, the children constantly needed new shoes (those darned feet kept growing!), food and shelter.  sorry, water man, but he was last on our lists of people who got paid!

so, this was the tip off: once that truck was spotted over by the library, making it’s evil way to stop at the naughty houses who were filled with negligent paupers, turning off their water supply, the phones would start ringing.  house by house, here he crept.

with the alert coming ahead of time, this was the job: throw off your icky yucky baggy sweat shirt and jammie bottoms, clasp on a push up bra, wear some tight jeans and a dangerously low-cut top, dab on some lovely alluring fragrance to cover the smell of bacon or pinesol, slip on a pair of heels and some fresh lipstick.  then, casually and in a state of calm, saunter out on the front sidewalk to pick flowers or tend to the mailbox….don’t let them know you’ve seen them coming!

sure enough, as the poor fellow would pull up and be greeted by yet another sexy lonely housewife, his knees and his resolve would weaken, he’d hear your brief little sad story, climb back into his truck, granting you leave for one more week, just enough time to gather the thirty two dollars required to cover the months’ worth of water. batting your eyelashes in deep gratitude, with a hint of a really big thank you in some realm of his imagination, off he’d drive, leaving you without shutting off your water supply.  victory!

yes, we girls do have to stick together, don’t we?

these days, i work solo, having moved beyond my notecard realm to something more independant, varied and challenging.  i love it, i do, in my country hideout, the one with it’s own well: a comforting security after those crazy days in town.

do i miss the collective village of like-minded sleuthing women down the block?  yes, at times i do, but i’m still just a text away from pulling them back into my cozy orbit, and now, too, and always, flooded with hilarious memories of those early fun ever-so-challenging days behind me.

indeed, it does take a village.  and then some.

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