On an ordinary day during the holiday season an older gentleman walked into my frame shop and asked us to frame a catcher’s mitt. I looked at the mitt wondering if it was once worn by a famous player, or had an autograph somewhere on the tattered leather. After a thorough examination I determined there wasn’t anything remarkable about this particular mitt other than the fact the man wanted it put into a shadowbox.
He was planning on giving it to his son for Christmas. We selected an appropriate mat, and frame. The order was like any other request we had had to shadowbox baseball memorabilia in the past, accept for his desire for a plate inside to read “To My Son, Always and Forever, Merry Christmas.”
When the job was complete, I called the man to let him know his piece was complete and that he could pick it up at his earliest convenience. Excitedly he exclaimed, “I’ll be right down!” Within a few minutes the man was making his way through the door to claim his sons present.
When I brought out the finished piece with the mitt inside the man started to cry. Surprised by his reaction, “I asked, “Is it not what you wanted?” He said, “No, it’s perfect.” He then explained; he and his son had traded the mitt back and forth for years. They had given it to one another for Christmases and birthdays alike. Back and forth, they had gifted it. Each time they would act surprised and cherished the mitt they once played catch with when they were both younger versions of themselves. As he was explaining their unique tradition, I asked, “Why did you decide to frame it?” After a long pause to gather his emotions, the man told me what made this Christmas different. “Well, I’ve been diagnosed with cancer and I am not going to make it to my next birthday, so I wanted it to be special. I wanted it to be something he would be able to keep forever. “He sat for a few more minutes just looking at the mitt inside the shadowbox and then he slowly looked up, picked up the box and said “Thank you for making it special.”
I will never forget the man or his mitt. It makes me sad when I think of him and his son, but I also feel extremely lucky that I could be a part of their tradition and I am proud that we helped him create a lifelong gift that he could give to his son for the last time. As a picture framer, I am grateful for every opportunity I have to touch someone with my work. I enjoy making something special become extraordinary. One of my favorite parts of my job is creating something that will last for generations to come. Whether it’s a signed Picasso or a dirty old baseball mitt, the items we frame are priceless.
Shadowboxes are the most difficult and rewarding projects we have that come through the shop. Military shadowboxes are some of my personal favorites. I enjoy understanding the accomplishments and the tradition in the ways we display them. Some of my most remarkable boxes aren’t just sports jerseys but we were lucky enough to frame a Jersey that was presented to Pope Frances by the Harlem Globetrotters.
When building a shadowbox a lot of consideration and planning goes in to picking materials to use and how to suspend the items inside the chosen frame so that it can be reversed at any time in the future. We pride ourselves on being as conservational as possible. Please feel free to look through our gallery and see some of our works.