The phone rang and it was my sister Mary Beth.
"Mom called me to tell me that she went to the funeral of our old neighbor Mr. Spiteri yesterday."
"Yeah, I heard about that, very sad." I wondered why she would call to tell me about this.
"Well, get this. She ran into some old neighbors there and struck up a conversation with a Mrs. Suffeck. Do you remember a Mrs. Stuffeck?"
I rolled the name around in my brain for a moment. "The name sounds vaguely familiar."
"Well," she went on, "apparently Mom was going on about her daughters like she does, and she got to talking about her youngest who is a Very Successful Buyer at Ford. (ha, ha)"
I wondered just what adjective my mother might have applied to my current career situation, but Mary Beth continued her story: "And then Mrs. Stuffeck says that her daughter is married to a Very Successful Buyer at Ford." I thought I could see where this was going. "Doesn't she realize that there are hundreds of buyers who work for Ford?"
I reminded Mary Beth that it is one of those Rules of the Universe that when our mother strikes up a conversation she will somehow magically hone in on the common link with lightning speed, and it always beats the odds of likelihood. Oh, your brother went to Michigan State? Well then he must know... Even though hundreds of thousands of people have attended certain Universities, or lived in certain towns or states, or worked for a giant corporation, it always turns out that you actually do know of or have a connection to the person. It just works that way. In fact, the entirety of my (unsuccessful) career at GM began with my mother standing in line to check out books at her local library, and finding out that the woman behind her worked in the department of GM where they hired summer students, and of course I was finishing up my sophomore year in Engineering and would sure like a job like that...and the rest is history.
There are no six degrees of separation when you have the single degree of Dorothy on your side.
So I was curious as to why Mary Beth was calling me with this story as she went on to say that when she asked our mother for the name of Mrs. Stuffeck's son-in-law, she found out that she had written it down on a scrap of paper and put it in her purse. And then couldn't find it. It is another (unfortunate) Rule of the Universe that my mother tends to quickly forget crucial details from these conversations, and I won't even go into the Black Hole Theory that I have about her purse.
But Mary Beth goes on: "So when I get to work today, my good friend and co-worker from the next cubicle comes over to tell me how his mother-in-law met up with my mother and that his wife Gloria grew up on our street!" But of course.
And now to the point of the phone call. Mary Beth was desperate to figure out if we actually knew Gloria growing up. She is probably a bit younger. I riffled through the rolodex of my brain trying to place a girl of that age into a house down the block near where the Spiteris lived. I thought I had it. "I know! She was the daughter of the President of the Barry Manilow fan club who lived in the smelly house who we never wanted to babysit for!"
Mary Beth was horrified. "It just can't be her. I've never met Gloria but she has a reputation of being very pretty and neatly dressed. That doesn't fit. Think some more."
I added the additional data of 'pretty' to the search engine of my memories, and came up with a vague and filmy image of a fancily dressed little girl being pushed around in a stroller to our side of the block. And then I remembered that I have this little photo album of pictures that I took when I found an old brownie camera in my Grandparents attic. The film for that thing was hard to get, so there are very few pictures, but they got looked at a lot. We're talking mid 1970's here.
I told Mary Beth that I would get back to her, and went to the closet where I quickly found the album and this very faded old photograph:
That is our older sister Becky in the back, and neighbor girl Debbie Dillworth pushing a tricycle with, could it be, little Gloria?
I scanned the photo and emailed it to Mary Beth at work, where she forwarded it to her coworker who shot it home to his wife who immediately confirmed that, yes, that was her on the tricycle.
It would be amazing except that this kind of thing isn't all that uncommon in our family and probably isn't for you either. I think that these things happen for a reason. Maybe their purpose is to serve as a reminder to us that we are always surrounded by people who are connected to us in ways we could never imagine and will probably never know. Unless, of course, you have a Dorothy.