Is this story over yet? I didn't think it would take so long! Sorry if my telling exceeds your attention span, dear blog reader. OK, where was I? The entry was sent in, the gingerbread house was relegated to the unheated porch, I got some sleep and went on with my life... January... February... March... March is when I started to think about the contest again. That's when Brach's said they would be notifying winners. Maybe I was delusional, but I really thought I might win something. An entertainment center would be spectacular. All we had was a TV sitting on a table.
Brach's said they would notify winners on or around March 12th. I started to make a point of being at home around mail delivery time a few days before that. Sure enough, on the 13th the doorbell rang. It was the postman and he had a certified letter for me. This is what it said:
I read it over and over. "Possible Grand Prize winner" - "Possible Grand Prize winner" - "Possible Grand Prize winner!" What does that mean - "possible?" I thought it meant that I was the winner if I did what they said: complete the release and return it. Could it be? Could I actually win the grand prize of $50,000??? I called my parents. My dad was cautious, "Well honey, be careful. Don't get your hopes too high. You know these contests - they tell everyone they could be the winner." You know like the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes - "You could be the next winner... blah blah blah..." He had a point. Maybe he was right. But it said all I had to do was complete the release and I WAS the winner.
So I completed the release right then and there - with hands shaking - in the neatest handwriting I could muster. I had to sign that I was not an employee of Jacob Suchard, Brach's parent company. I had to sign to allow them to use my name, likeness and photo of the gingerbread house in advertising and publicity. I had to sign that I abided by the rules of the contest. There was also a bunch of legal-ease to agree to. The signed release had to be received by March 21st. Brach's provided a prepaid certified mail envelope. I made a copy of each document and proceeded to the post office to mail it off the same day. Done. Now what? I waited.
During the following week I told everyone I knew that I thought I might have won. Might have won. Might have won. By the end of a week, I was beginning to think like my dad and Ed McMahon would not be ringing my doorbell with a 6 foot long cardboard check. 7 days went by and I heard nothing. I couldn't stand it any longer. Did I win or not? I waited until Nathan was down for his nap and Lars was comfortably watching something on TV and tracked down the phone number for Brach's. With my heart beating a mile a minute, I called. When I told the person on the other end who I was I heard a chuckle followed by, "Well, we thought we'd heard from just about everyone who entered this contest... except the winner... and that is YOU!" I dropped to my knees and started gasping for breath saying, "ARE YOU SERIOUS? I WON? I REALLY WON? I REALLY WON?" She laughed, "Yes, you are the grand prize winner and you'll be getting a check for $50,000." I was in shock. I don't really remember our whole conversation, but one thing I do remember is her question, "Tell me, we're all dying to know... What possessed you to take your gingerbread house outside to photograph it? That was so cool. It made it look like a real house." God bless Model Building 101!!! That may have been the difference. Whew! Thank goodness we got it through that door! When I hung up the phone I started crying. Lars had made his way over to me. He knew something big was going down. He asked, "Why are you crying, mommy?" I hugged him, "I'm crying because I'm so happy. These are happy tears."
On April 11th, the mailman rang my doorbell again. As I was signing for the certified letter from Brach's, I wanted to tell the mailman that there was a check inside for $50,000. I wanted to scream it from my front porch for the whole neighborhood to hear. But I didn't. I just told the mailman that I won a contest. There was no 6 foot check. There was no prize team with helium balloons hiding in a van. No fanfare. I was OK with that because inside the envelope, I found this (minus the "void" which appeared when I made this copy):
Next post: Keeping promises and opening a savings account... and spending a little.