On a late fall morning in 1977, in Newport News, Virginia, a $1 bill passed silently into the circulation of United States currency. Seven-year-old Robin Montague had just dropped it into the collection basket as it passed down the pew she shared with her family every Sunday.
She had just enough time before the basket reached her to pull out a pencil and her favorite psychedelic orange pen and draw her favorite doodle beside Mr. Washington’s face: a robin. She was a good enough artist that most people would guess that it was, indeed, a species of robin.
As quickly as the dollar bill passed from her hand, so did it disappear into her memory banks. Though efficient, the memory mechanisms of a growing child are so active with absorbing new activities and insights, it would be quite some time before Robin was to think of that dollar bill again.
Years later, as Robin neared her senior year in high school, it became incumbent upon her to select a college, and soon after to declare a major. She had no doubts, no misgivings: art was her passion, her life.
Their misgivings about an art major were all her parents discussed. Robin excelled in math; her science grades were great (although it wasn’t a favorite); and she had a gift for sharing what she knew. For Mr. and Mrs. Montague, teaching was a field which would welcome a paragon such as Robin.
These parents, however, had also instilled in their daughter a determination to be her own person. They would advise; they would support financially. Ultimately, it was Robin’s choice.
Her college years were filled with her art studies, work and friends, but she found time to become part of a Christian fellowship where she continued to grow spiritually. Seeking God’s guidance and presence was as natural to her as breathing.
The New Millennium found Robin opening an art show in a trendy gallery in Fairfax, VA. Such success by the age of 30 would be remarkable, but not for Robin. As the show opened, the only butterflies she experienced were from excitement, not nerves. She would be glad when this short showing was over, because the big news was that she was taking her show on the road.
By the summer of 2000, Robin had settled into a loft apartment in the “old town” section of Olympia, Washington. The small studio on the ground floor housed her workroom, a small area next to that where she held art classes, and a showroom completely fronted by plate-glass windows. She felt she had been born to do this; she was so completely comfortable and fulfilled.
Of interest to our story is the fact that shortly before Robin left her church in Virginia, a new Youth Pastor was installed, fresh from Olympia, Washington. He made a connection for Robin with a congregation near her new home, and filled her in on things to see and do as she settled into the Northwest.
Following her distant “tour guide’s” leads, Robin decided one chilly morning to leave her studio in the capable hands of her assistant and walk two blocks to check out Walt’s Old Town Bakery. The scents of rising dough, spices and fresh-brewed coffee were attractive enough, but the smiles that greeted her as she pushed open the door warmed her to her toes.
Robin took her time at the display case behind which Walter himself stood, awaiting her decision. Finally giving up, she asked for recommendations.
“You sit at that table over there by the window, and I’ll bring you the best of the house,” Walt told her.
Intrigued, Robin did as instructed, and soon those wonderful scents grew much closer to her nose. She carefully sipped at the coffee, deciding it needed nothing added, not even her usual cream and sugar. And the first bite of pumpkin-spice scone (once she’d chosen between that and the cream-filled maple bar) was pure heaven. Like the cherry on a sundae, the day’s newspaper appeared.
After nearly two hours of bliss, Robin stepped to the register to pay.
Then her eye caught the small black frame, in which matting surrounded a dollar bill: the common thing for a shop-owner to do with the “first dollar earned” in the new business.
She had almost turned away toward the door when her brain caught up with her eye. The dollar bill had a doodle. She stepped closer. Yes, it was. Her robin.
“Walt…” she called.
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