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Was a Flea Market Find a Sign for the Future?

A vintage tin that once contained strawberry candy connected her with her family back in Delaware—and pointed the way to a welcome new  connection.

Robin Hill-Page Glanden's vintage strawberry candy tin

Father’s Day morning and I was up at the crack of dawn, on the hunt for antiques at a crowded flea market in Long Beach, California. I’m not a morning person. But my 70-year-old dad specifically requested we go there. Back in Delaware, he ran an antiques business with Mom. He’d heard about the Long Beach flea market from one of his antiquing buddies. “We have to get there early,” he told me. “Before all the good stuff is gone.”

I had moved to Los Angeles seven years before to pursue acting and writing. I’m an only child. My parents visited often. I knew they wished I lived closer. Still, they were always so supportive of my challenging career choice. I wanted to do something special for Dad that Father’s Day. I’d planned a weekend full of activities, culminating in dinner and a show at an invitation-only club in Hollywood. But Dad only wanted one thing: to go antiquing.

I trailed behind him sleepily, feeling as if I were at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. The market was in a huge parking lot with tents as far as the eye could see. Vendors hawked their wares—furniture, glass, china, jewelry, books, hats, you name it. Dad schmoozed with the vendors, snapping up good buys. I browsed a table of kitchen knickknacks. A pretty peach teapot. Some 1950s canisters like the ones Mom had.

On the edge of another table, something else caught my eye. A tiny tin with a logo of strawberries. And two words at the bottom: Dover, Del.

Dover, Delaware. A city 30 minutes from my hometown. How funny to see such a familiar name on a tin can some 3,000 miles away. I examined it closely. Above the city and state, it said Richardson & Robbins.

“Hey, Dad,” I said. “Look at this. Do you know anything about Richardson & Robbins?”

Dad turned the tin over in his hands. “Seems like an old cannery,” he said. “Probably closed a long time ago. Imagine finding this tin all the way out here on the West Coast.” He paused and looked at me, a twinkle in his bright blue eyes.

“Maybe it means you’re meant to be in Delaware!” he said.

I had to laugh. Dad was always teasing me about moving home. We got the tin, Dad’s treat. A few days later my parents headed back east. I put the tin in my china cabinet. I’d occasionally find my eyes drawn to it, especially during tough times. A reminder of Dad. That I wasn’t alone.

The tin sat there for three years, until Mom’s health took a turn for the worse. I moved back East to be closer, the tin from Dover tucked safely in my suitcase. It was difficult to put my career on hold, but it turned out to be a good decision. Nine months later, Dad died of a heart attack. Mom couldn’t bear the idea of living alone. We bought a house in northern Delaware and moved in together. The tin from Dover went up on our bookshelf.

In 2005, Mom passed away. I found myself at a crossroads. I didn’t know what to do next. Move back to California? Stay in Delaware? Pursue acting? Maybe writing? I felt so lost and alone without Mom and Dad.

That’s when my life took a turn. By a series of unbelievable coincidences, I got back in touch with my high school boyfriend, Kenny. I’d always wondered if he was the true love of my life. We hadn’t seen each other in 35 years. And then, one night, we ended up on the phone for hours. He asked me to meet him for lunch. I was over the moon. Nervous too. Was this a sign of what God wanted next for me? Was I even supposed to stay in Delaware? I couldn’t be sure. Until Kenny called to discuss the details of our date.

“How about we meet at my office?” Kenny said.

“Sounds great,” I said. “Where do you work?”

“Dover,” he said. “In the old Richardson & Robbins building. Do you know it?”

I met Kenny in the building’s lobby for our lunch date. The date that told me I wouldn’t be alone anymore, that my life was headed in a wonderful new direction. One I could’ve never imagined. Though, maybe Dad had sensed it all along.

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