By: Heather Marsden, Manager of Specialized Services
Like everyone else in March 2020, an historic line was drawn in the sand of our lives. A line that will forever be defined as pre-COVID and post-COVID. My pre-COVID in the spring of 2020 was expected to be one of the busiest seasons for our basketball family. It was the season where we are usually on the road every weekend travelling to a fun-filled basketball tournament weekend. The schedule usually takes us into June and then we focus our energies on hosting friends and family for summer BBQs. But with all that cancelled due to the stay-at-home order, what does one do with all that free time? Well let me share with you about my journey in discovering a newfound hobby that not only gave me a much needed creative outlet but much joy to our neighborhood as well.
It all started with my need to find a creative outlet as a way to control something of my own in a time where we all lost control at the start of the pandemic. I thought about cookie making with fancy frosted decorations after watching all those Food Network cookie challenge shows. But the perishable side of the hobby did not appeal to me. Not to mention the potential weight gain! Then I transferred my creativity desire from decorating cookies to decorating rocks as we had plenty in our yard. I stumbled upon Pinterest, an LOL-worthy photo of a painted M&M’s candy being bitten off. My first batch of painted rocks were those candies, along with Minions. I put them under our tree on the front yard. Purely for the purpose of garden décor. My favourite rock is the one where it said “hello … from the inside.” I thought it was hilarious considering the circumstances.
Again, my initial purpose was solely for garden decor. After all, the store Winners was closed and who knows how long for! The tree in our front yard was close enough to the sidewalk that it allowed passersby to stop and look without feeling that they were trespassing on our property. I thought if it made me LOL, surely it would make others laugh too. Sure enough, as I sat at my makeshift home office in the dining room which overlooks the front yard tree, I saw plenty of people stopping by. Not just passing by and glancing, but literally stopping and staying for a while to look at the various rocks. Many children with their parents or grandparents would stop by. A welcome sight for them I’m sure of as they were likely facing challenges (as every parent knows!) of the online school world and needing a break outside. For the first few weeks I would see adults and kids stop by daily and see what new rocks I created. Pretty soon I was growing quite the surplus of rocks as I would start painting them on Saturday mornings (replacing the schedule I would have to get ready to hit the road for a basketball tournament). What to do with all these rocks that were making people smile? Well, why not give them away! So with a convenient blue wet mop container and a handwritten cardboard sign, I told people to take a rock home. My sign said: “Please Help Yourself! Kids – take one rock with your parent’s permission. Stay safe everyone!” I would have generally 15-20 rocks in the container. I had no idea if anyone would really take them. They are by no means Picasso quality. In fact, many people assumed my kids made them! Sure enough, within 24 hours all the rocks were gone! So I made more. The people kept stopping by as if it was part of their COVID daily ritual.
I was thoroughly entertained while sitting in my makeshift office in the dining room watching this all unfold through the window. The kids would literally run up and stop at the tree while waiting for their parents to catch up before picking out a rock. It wasn’t until I started getting homemade cards and handwritten notes from grandmothers left at my doorstop that I realized what a small difference I was making for our neighbours. One time the doorbell rang and my kids tell me there is someone here who wants to meet “the rock lady”!
A few occasions made me smile despite that the mundane ritual of washing each and every rock. On a very heavy rainy day, I saw a car pulled up in front of our house. I see a woman get out with an umbrella and open the passenger door facing my window. I see a child sitting in the back car seat. The mom then proceeded to look into the container and give a rock to the child in the car. Wow I thought! People were really making it part of their routine no matter the weather.
On another occasion, my neighbour sent us a video of her one-year-old child banging on his bedroom window. They had placed an Elmo rock on his windowsill. He likes Elmo apparently! They had a daughter that was approximately three years old. I knew she stopped by the tree every day. I asked what character does she like? Pippa the Pig. I had to Google what Pippa looked like. After all, my kids are 20 and 17. When I painted Pippa, I made sure to leave one on their doorstep instead of the container. I wanted to make sure she had the rock before the other kids did!
There are several other memorable sights that came from this experience that I hope to repeat this summer. I am glad to be able to put a smile on someone’s face during the times of uncertainty. This lasted for several weeks until we were seriously running low on rocks! In total I probably painted over 200 rocks! I hope my experience brought a smile to yours too!
Here are some of my favourite rocks. I made sure to paint some for the adults as well!