The unexpected gift


The Legal Genealogist was hoping for a gift yesterday.

Now, in part, I already had a gift: the gift of research time. Something that’s been in exceedingly short supply for the past few months (fall semester is always a bear).

gps_satnav_onBut I had taken a day — one whole entire day — for myself at the Library of Virginia. That, by itself, was a gift.

I will confess that I was hoping for some time to research my own family, and because of a frustrating set of combined circumstances I didn’t quite manage that. But I did find, at long last, one set of records I desperately wanted and needed for some work I’m doing, and that, it seemed, was going to have to be enough.

Still, there was one other gift I was planning on taking: the gift of time with a beloved aunt. My mother’s youngest sister, my aunt Trisha, lives in Richmond, I don’t ever get to see her enough, and with her husband and children off to visit his family for a couple of days, I had a chance at some uninterrupted time with her at dinner last night.

And that would have been more than enough.

And then it happened. Out of the blue the way these things happen so often.

I had arrived early at the restaurant where we were to meet and was sitting in the car checking something on my phone when the darned thing started to ring. It was Trisha calling. And, it turned out, she was standing right behind my car waiting for me to get out.

We had a laugh over that and then she said: “You must have either a great sense of direction… or a great GPS.”

And the fact is, I do have a good sense of direction. If ever I have been to a place once, walking or driving, I can usually get back there a second time even without directions.

And I said so in response to Trisha, and then smiled, reminding her of one of my cousins, her niece, whose sense of direction is notoriously bad.

“And your mother,” she answered. “Your mother and Marianne could get lost in their own backyards.” Her sisters. People she would have ridden with and walked with as youngsters and as adults.

And I had had no idea.

All the years my parents were married, my father drove. I don’t ever remember him letting my mother get behind the wheel if they were together. And there were only a few places my mother ever drove us — over and over and over. Music lessons. The school. The church. Places she would have been to so many times she couldn’t get lost.

I was long gone out of my parents’ home by the time they split up, and the area where my mother settled was in the middle of her family — surrounded by people and places she knew. And without a lot of reason to go anywhere new, anywhere off the repeatedly-beaten paths of her life.

So I never knew my mother was, shall we say, directionally-challenged.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that, as a very young woman, she would have decided to pack up everything she owned in a second-hand (or, more likely, 82nd-hand) beat-up car and head off from her Texas home to Colorado where she had been offered a job.

A place she had never been.

A place where everything would be new.

A place where she would have to get around all by herself.

A place where only persistence and determination would overcome a sense not of direction but of misdirection.

So I got an unexpected gift yesterday.

A bit of information about my mother that was new to me.

And a greater appreciation for her courage… and a little clearer view of who she was.

You can’t ask for more than that.

Image: User J_Alves on Open ClipArt Library

Print Friendly
This entry was posted in My family. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to The unexpected gift

  1. Douglas Burnett says:

    Hi Judy
    I don’t know if you like Italian food or not but when back in Richmond I highly recommend Amici Ristorante in Carytown. We are in Richmond about 4 times a year at the LVA and the VHS.
    A good noon time feed is the Wall Street Grill about 2 blocks over directly in front of the LVA. Great sandwiches.

    Hope to get to say Hi at the Conference this spring.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!–It sounds like a great Christmas Gift for you was meeting with your Aunt.

    Douglas Burnett
    Satellite Beach, FL

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the recommendations, Douglas, and hope to meet you in person as well!

    • Paula Williams says:

      Ooh, Amici is yummy!

      I have to giggle, but thanks for the tip about Wall Street. I have lived in Richmond most of my life, and I’m learning about new (to me) places from a Floridian! That I live and have worked in the suburbs is a bit of an excuse for me to not know what’s nearest to LVA, but not a good enough one. I think I will take this exchange as an excuse to explore more downtown – especially between now and May, when NGS comes to town.

  2. Laura says:

    Nice nice story – what a lovely gift for all of us!

  3. Celia Lewis says:

    These little treasures of information – they are indeed priceless, leading to new questions and thoughts. And so touching. Thanks for sharing this, Judy.

    My own 4 kids know only too well that I’m significantly directionally-challenged – I used to wear out those big book-maps for cities, every year. And working in a field where I always had to drive to new-to-me places, I had to be very direct with my clients: “If I miss the turnoff, what will I see next?” etc. My first experiences with having to constantly ask for help with something others take for granted. Humility. GPS would have been nice back then (1966-2008).

  4. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    Those new-to-us “little” tidbits about our loved ones are wonderful—and, on occasion, shocking to the very core of your being!!!

  5. What a great story! And a wonderful reminder to us all that our ‘research’ never really ends… no matter how many records we dig through or DNA results we analyze, there is always something new for us to find out! I’m glad you made time to visit with your Aunt… spending time with ‘living, breathing relatives’ is something I’m always prattling on about! Because it’s from them that we learn those special gems…like you did!

    Happy New Year~ Looking forward to hearing you speak in 2014, at the Minnesota Gen Society!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks so much, Nicholas — and oh yes… I’m going to take time to visit every chance I get!

      Please make sure you come up and introduce yourself at the Minnesota conference!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>