How the “Elephant House” on Mockingbird Lane Helped a Nine Year Old Little Girl Feel So Much Better

elephant

You never, ever know who is going to see the front of your house, how they will experience it. For the most part, we treat the front of our homes, the famous “drive-up appeal”, with incredible care, especially if the home is being marketed for sale. Some homeowners always take pride in their home’s outside face.

Most homeowners prefer to keep grass and hedges neat and tidy, the home painted and pristine, eschewing art or decorative yard objects. Others enjoy a garden of sculpture, which can be mixed amongst plantings and readily seen by thousands if the home is on a busy street.

The folks who planted the bronze elephant at 5322 West Mockingbird Lane nearly 25 years ago had no idea the statue would inspire a nine-year-old girl from Sherman, Texas, to get better. Ironically they bought it, says listing agent Bonnie Bauer, as a symbol of good luck and good health.

I know you have seen it countless times while stuck in traffic on Mockingbird Lane just east of Inwood Road. The house is one of those Greenway Park charmers –a fully updated three bedroom brick ranch cottage, circa 1979, .18 acres with a darling backyard and pool. The home is 2,320 square feet, smaller than its cousins heading east on Mockingbird towards the heart of the Park Cities. It is listed for $639,000.

But did you know that elephant, the bronze statue right in front of the house and very visible to the street, so inspired one precious little girl that she named the elephant “Hope” and sent the homeowners a letter complete with a portrait?

Erica R., age nine at the time, wrote the homeowners to tell them her favorite animal in the world is an elephant. And the elephant they had placed in front of this home helped get this little girl through some tough treatments at Children’s Medical Center.

Five years ago, in March of 2013,  Erica was sent to Children’s Medical Center with serious medical issues. She was only nine years old at the time. Imagine, a nine year old from Sherman, Texas, home of Dwight D. Eisenhower, already fighting for her life!

“I went to Children’s Hospital because they have a hospital for situations like my own. It was called “day treatment” and I met lots of other kids like me. But I hated going there,” she writes the owners. “I live in Sherman so it was a two-hour drive to go there everyday.”

The elephant in front of 5322 Mockingbird Lane was one of the reasons why Erica said she made it through her treatments.

“One of the only reasons I went there besides the hope of getting better was so I could see the “elephant house”. Your home was one of the few reasons I made it through. I was out of school for five months. Went to the hospital every day for three weeks, and now go there every three months for check ups. It was a very difficult time, but your statute was light a light in the darkness of my world.”

“Your statute was light a light in the darkness of my world.” Wow, all that from one little bronze elephant.

Erica goes on to say that her illness has greatly improved, and today she is a happy, healthy 7th grader (when this letter was written last year).

“You were a HUGE part of my story and I still pass by your house and remember how special it was and still is to me. You greatly impacted me without knowing it and your elephant helped me so much. So thank you. Thank you for giving me the courage that I needed in that chapter of my life. To thank you, I painted you a portrait of your elephant: do with it what you like.”

Can you imagine that? An elephant statue in front of a cottage home helped inspire a nine year old to feel better about herself.

How have homes, statues or buildings affected you in your life as you drive by?

I recall vividly sitting in the passenger’s seat (pre-seat belts and child car seats, my mom would protect us by throwing her arm arm across the seat) to the many lessons and appointments that required long car travel hours. Whizzing on the Illinois tollway, you cannot see much but the blur of suburban homes and fences, though I do remember going under the Chicago Post Office on the Eisenhower Expressway and the different noise the road made, which meant we were almost in the city. I remember very well the landmarks of homes, the lights, the yards, like the Round House in Aurora, the beautiful stone home on Lake Street my uncle once owned which was converted into a nursing home.

I recall the dramatic architecture of the Illinois State Training School for Girls at Geneva, which we passed every time while driving to Aurora, nearly weekly. It was an impressive sight, a series of cottages surrounding a rock-solid imposing granite and brick institution built in 1894. According to “Asylum Properties” (I’m obsessed), “It was one of the few (schools) that accepted African-Americans. The early girls were mostly mentally handicapped or sexually active. ”

Whoa. Didn’t know that then. But every time we passed, I was told that was where I would go if I didn’t behave.

My childhood inspiration may have kept me on the straight & narrow, I never saw the insides of this reform school

So there you have it,  a house with way more than bricks and mortar, drive-up appeal, mature landscaping and a serene pool. Yes yes to all of that. Yes yes to some hefty updates in the kitchen and master bath. But 5322 West Mockingbird also has love going for it inside and out, and kindness, and good health. It started with that little bronze elephant, and we certainly it continues with the next owners.

Oh yes, the elephant stays with the house. Bonnie says the balloon chandelier over the breakfast table is excluded, meh, let them take it. Keep that elephant, “Hope”, right in its spot in the front yard, smiling at drivers and passengers alike.

Wouldn’t is be amazing if someday, when older,  Erica actually bought this house?

Don’t touch that elephant!

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