Tall Thought 30: Sunday / by Jennifer Wisniewski

"Hedgehog Day"

I handle the private events at Bread & Wine. It’s the one area of my job where I feel like I can make a difference in someone’s life, by leaving them with a fond memory. It’s not exactly teaching someone how to read or digging wells in a third world country, but if I can make someone feel special and validated for a day, I feel like I am making a small difference in my little corner of the world.

We recently hosted a birthday party for Anne-Marie, a Danish woman who was turning 80 years old. Before every event, I sit down with the client and try to get to know them - kind of like a first date. I ask questions about their favorite flower, movie or favorite musician. It helps me to get to know what their expectations are, but I also get a better gauge of the person and an understanding on how to set the mood for their party.

Anne-Marie likes wild flowers, John Coltrane, and she’s Danish – so there will need to be a place where they can sing songs. Apparently in Denmark, during celebrations – regardless of talent – you need to write a song and get up in front of a room of people and belt it out. I thought how un-American – here we like to shame and mock people and get a hook to pull them off the stage, if they don’t sound like Mariah.

As we were finishing up the meeting, she asked me if it was ok if she put hedgehogs on every table. She went on to explain that she’s been collecting hedgehogs forever and has amassed quite a fortune of them. At the end of the evening, she wanted the guests to pick out their favorite and take it home with them. A hedgehog party favor, if you will. When she told me her wish, I became teary eyed. I’m not sure why I became choked up by this – it was just so personal and specific. It was one of those moments where I knew that no one will ever say this to me again and I felt lucky to hear that even once in my lifetime.

The party went great and everyone got up and sang a song for Anne-Marie and told stories of how she touched their lives. Everything from her being a good mom, grandma and friend – to saving Jews from the Nazis in Denmark. When you are a part of a celebration like that it recalibrates you and you start thinking, “What will my legacy be, and how have I made a difference for the better in people’s lives?” 

The following week, our hot water heater broke. This, as you can imagine, is not cheap to replace. However, one of the reasons we could pay for it was because of her event the week prior. I wished I could get into my time machine (it’s not quite ready yet), go back to her event, grab the microphone and tell her guests that not only did Anne-Marie save the Jews from the Nazis, but she also saved Bread & Wine from the health department.

Best,

Jen