Yesterday morning I spent two hours talking to a cousin—a cousin whom I've never met. He'd read my memoir, Tainted Legacy, saw the last name "Williams" mentioned as one of my ancestors, did some checking, and yeah, we're cousins; his great-grandfather was the brother of my great-great-grandmother (all of which we happily verified on Ancestry.com). Our conversation, over that two hours, led us from laughter to tears and back again as we shared family stories and secrets, heartaches and triumphs. And in the course of our dialogue, we discussed an individual who may or may not be a blood relative, someone with whom I had contact while researching Tainted Legacy. But I haven't spoken to her in years. And now I'm curious to know who her people were. So is new-cousin-Chris.
"Don't let her slip away, Kay," he implored.
So I went looking for her phone number. I began by searching my entire Bertha Gifford file (and let me tell you, it's extensive, including all my notes, newspaper clippings, photos, every email I've ever received about her or the book—printed--rejection slips from agents and publishers—ha ha ha ha ha ha ha—and the True Crime comic book in which her story is featured. (No, I won't mention which one or the issue date. Good lord, it's horrid.)
But I didn't find her phone number.
So today I finally (after quite a few years), went through my nightstand drawer, the place where I keep the cards my kids send me and other precious mementos.
Is it important to mention that I've had the same nightstand since I was born? Yep. For sixty-plus years it has sat sturdily next to my bed in every home I've lived in. The beds have come and gone (I sometimes miss the waterbed), but the nightstand remains stalwart. I promised my mom in 1972 when I moved out of the house and she sent it off with me that I'd sand it down and refinish it. Sorry, Mom!
I didn't find that phone number.
But I did find an abundance of other treasures, including a birthday card The Youngest Granddaughter made for me—yes, that granddaughter, the one who just started college. I have treasured it all these years for the way she depicted us together.
And a Mother's Day card my son drew for me—in the 1980's—complete with an Ewok sticker to fancy it up.
And a card my mother sent me... when she was 90.
And the two-page letter my sweet cousin Danny Fiocchi sent me after he'd finished reading Tainted Legacy, which was not long after it came out because at its publication, I'd sent him a copy, since the book came into being only because that stubborn Irish/Italian man refused to let me give up on it. In the letter, he mentions that he is 51... that he started working at the age of 16... that in all the years he's been working, he's only been late for work "a handful of times, today being one of them." Because he couldn't put the book down. "Thank God I'm my boss," he said. See why I love him?
And all the precious bookmarks my bibliophile friends have sent me over the years, including one from County Cork, Ireland (wherein the Murphy ancestors lie buried), several made for me by my beloved cousin Jean Thompson, and one I procured from the Singing Wind bookstore in Benson, Arizona (Winifred Bundy, proprietor) in 1993.
I have been steeped in nostalgia all day. And you know what? It's a nice place to visit when you've been sad. It has reminded me of how much love has been surrounding me all my life.
Now if I can just find that phone number....