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).
But 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