Photo by Maria Kalaitzandonakes

My mom was having a bad day.

It wasn’t anything in particular, but all the little inconveniences and frustrations had piled up and her brow was a deep furrowed line.

That day, I had to go downtown to run a few errands and, fearing going home to the wrath of an angry mother, popped into one of the most delightful stores in The District: Poppy. I perused for a few minutes, cuddling with the corduroy Armadillo baby toy, fingering the flower printed wrapping paper and stopping to gaze up at my favorite section: cards.

I am a sucker for the perfect card.

One of my few collections is a purple box filled to the brim of these with folded pieces of card stock, displaying a message meant for one person, in one moment.

The first card I ever bought from Poppy is still at the bottom of the box, waiting for its time. It has a baby blue back with a bright fuchsia front. The pink cutout creates a mountain of words, and a boy and a girl – holding hands and wearing berets – stands on top of it.

The blue paper behind shows through the pink and proclaims, “Can we? Shall we? One day, very soon. Let us go away together, just you and I, call in sick and go to the sea and hold hands all day, eat our sandwiches on the train, get drunk on fresh air and come home tired and never tell anyone … ever.”

It will live it’s life in the small purple box, along with it’s brothers of condolences, of happy birthdays and of corny love sayings.

But this trip to Poppy, I found a card perfect for that day. This card would have no purple purgatory. It wouldn’t even make it in the envelope.

It said, “It’s a cream soda kind of day.” The off white paper was decorated with a old style soda bottle, and a young girl in braids and a huge smile.

After I purchased my hundredth or so card, I ran to another Columbia favorite, Flat Branch Pub and Brewery. Although they are known for their beer, in my circles, the best thing on their menu is their homemade strawberry cream soda. I bought a pint.

I left the glass bottle, sticky and pink on the edges, leaving a ring on my kitchen counter. I propped the card up next to it, signing, “I hope this makes your day better mama.”

And long after the card was lost and the soda was consumed, I saw my mom smiling. Something so little — a pint of sweetness and a note — can change the entire direction of someone’s face. Suddenly, her day didn’t seem to terrible after all.

By Maria Kalaitzandonakes 

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“See zos chickens?” her old Greek grandfather would say pointing to the pigeons, “all of zos are yours.” Growing up, all little girls think they’re princesses. But Maria’s kingdom never had a prince, never a castle. She reigned over her “chickens” and olive trees. Yup, it was all Greek to her. Rules in this kingdom were strict. Only A’s in school. No sleepovers. No painting the walls. In pre-school the teachers had her hearing tested three times, thinking that her piercingly loud voice must come from some sort of deafness. Maria, herself, never realized her life was odd until grade school, when the very American idea of “personal bubble space” puzzled her. And when physically unable to abide by the “arm’s length apart rule” Maria’s teacher gave her a hula hoop, which she had to walk around with as to not disrupt anyone’s personal space. When a little boy bothered her in middle school, Maria’s hot temper (Greek Blood as Maria’s father called it), got the best of her, and she yelled out a curse “gammoto!” and punched him in the face. In high school she embraced the crooked nose, the Christmas boat and the five gallon olive oil tin in her pantry. When Maria’s grandfather first saw a squirrel he said, “See zos fings” pointing to the unknown animal, “Do not be afraid of zem. You are a Greek, baby.” And with that, she had confidence in her future, as a non-squirrel fearing Greek princess. Maria is also the editor in chief for "The Rock" and "Southpaw". You can contact me at


  1. I love Poppy! All the colors just put me in a good mood. Anyways, that was such a nice thing you did for your mom 🙂


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