Wow, you guys have no idea. Thanks to your t-post comments, now when I look at the clipart of sunflowers by my old barn I think of this:
You may think, Wow, pretty kitchy, but it wasn't. It was beautiful and quirky. And it made it super easy to give directions to our house. Turn right, come down the street and our drive is directly across from the mailbox with the sunflowers. How great is that?
The man who lived in that house and who created that mailbox was a metal worker from Poland. He and his wife were concentration camp survivors. I don't know how they ultimately landed on that quiet, dead end street in the American South, but they did. Most of his living came from creating ornamental metal work -- railings and such I think. He had an old green and white pickup truck with his own ornamental white railings all around the bed. This made him easily spotted anywhere in town. Hey look, there goes Mr. L.
At heart he was an artist. I know this because at home he was surrounded by his sculptures. The rest of us ordinary folk had grass and trees in our yards. Not even flowers. But his lawn swept up a steep hillside filled with art. Now, decades later, I still remember the graceful bronze ballerina under the eave of his house and the running deer poised mid-leap halfway up the hill.
When I was very small, my father, a professor and umpteenth generation Southerner, and this metal artist from Poland, would occasionally get together to play chess and talk theology. I tagged along once to peek inside the man's house, which turned out to also be filled with metal sculptures. I could not have been more than five years old. In my mind's eye, I can still see the miniature figure of two rabbi's arguing. They sat across a table from each other and pounded their fists on its tiny surface. One rabbi was captured as he lept up from his seat and knocked the table up on two legs.
When I was older, my mother commissioned a beautiful menorah from Mr. L as a gift for my Methodist father. It hung in a place of honor over the fireplace in my parents' house for years.
When my real sunflowers bloom against the old barn in a couple of months, I'll think about that mailbox and my childhood on that quiet dead end street in the suburbs and smile.