It's hard to remember when it all started -- it was such a long timeago.
But one day, the mailbox was flooded with letters and mail. It hasn't stopped yet. And all the letters and trinkets come from onecompany, the KMS Group in Columbia.
It is building the huge Piney Orchard development in Odenton: 4,000 homes -- single-family dwellings, town houses and apartments. It is having an open house next Wednesday. It wants the press to come.
And as all good public relations people know, it has to get a reporter's attention first. This company is pretty good at it. Every Mondayfor the past couple of months it has sent something, sometimes in huge, protected envelopes.
The packet usually arrives by Wednesday and has included everything from colorful descriptions of the development to photos of billboards advertising it. It even sent me a small version of the billboard itself. It spent nearly $2 in postage on thatone.
In bright red letters, the sign says, "Turn Left at Next Traffic Light." I put it on my desk (just what those PR-types want, I'msure), where the nearest traffic light is at Route 2 and Jumpers Hole Road. Not exactly near Piney Orchard.
But then the company outdid itself. It sent me a house key. I thought about taking a trip to Piney Orchard and seeing if I could get in one of the new town houses, but a reporter in jail can't cover opening day festivities.
Anyway, a company official told me that the key probably doesn't go to anything great. "We had a lot of extra keys that went to old offices," said Larry Lichtenauer, who I found out was behind the glut of information. "We want to get your attention. We want you to come to this event."
A new house would have gotten my attention a lot faster, but Isuppose the rules of ethics would have prohibited me from accepting.So I guess it's just as well.
An early invitation to the May 15 Grand Opening -- in color, mind you -- says the ribbon cutting will beofficiated by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and will have "fancy deserts and refreshments."
The following day, on Thursday, the developer has invited the press to attend the company's annual office party,also at the Piney Orchard Visitors Center. That one's at night. No governor, but there will be hot and cold hors d'oeuvres to go along with "live entertainment."
Those developers sure know how to party.
CROWNING TOUCH OF LOVE
The Cinderella story took a charming reverse twist at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport one night recently.
As the clock struck midnight, grandmother Aida Stephensonstepped off an airplane from San Francisco.
She didn't know her fairy godmother was waiting to give her a royal welcome.
Stephenson's plane arrived just a few moments past 12, and exhausted, she made her way through the terminal to where relatives waited.
What happened next was a scene from a greeting card commercial, the stuff of Normon Rockwell paintings and old sentimental songs -- and it was trulysweet.
Stephenson broke into a run. Her two grandchildren -- Elizabeth, 11, and Tim, 6 -- flung themselves into her arms, proffering ahuge bouquet of long-stemmed red roses.
Then they presented her with a tall paper crown, sparkling with silver glitter.
Putting on the crown and clasping the roses, the visitor looked distinctly like a grown-up Cinderella.
And her fun was just beginning, said her beaming family. Cynthia and Robert Stephenson watched his mother's arrival, explaining that the distance had kept the families apart.
"She hasn't seen the children for nearly five years. And we've got her for a month!" said Cynthia.
Little Elizabeth tugged at her grandma's hand. "We made your crown. I made your bed," she said.
Stephenson, a bit teary-eyed, hugged her granddaughter and chuckled. "That's good, because I never did learn how to make a good bed," she said.
Tired-looking stewardesses walked by, observed the family, and smiled.
As the Stephensons walked out of the airport, arms around one another, the last thing you could see was the hand-made paper crown, wobbling half a foot above Mrs. Stephenson's tailored suit.