Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Small World Department

Hallie came to visit yesterday. A bright, lively young woman, she was my student some years ago, but she could have been family.About six weeks into the fall term of her tenth-grade English class, Hallie's mother appeared in my classroom one day after school.From a manila folder, she pulled and unfolded a yellowing newspaper article from the early 1950s. Together, we read a feature story about my parents' new house (my childhood house), a story in which my mother figured importantly.

Hallie's mother had figured, rightly, that her husband's mother (in whose things she had found the folder) and my mother must have known each other. Mind you, Hallie's grandparents lived in Nashville and mine lived in Birmingham. "Is that possible?" she asked. "Not only possible, but true!" I exclaimed and then explained that Wes and Peggy were my godparents. She and my mother were great friends, though why they ever met and how they sustained their friendship I will never know.

I went straight home and dug out photographs that proved our family connection. For Hallie, I made an 8 by 10 black and white of her grandmother. When she saw it, she squealed because the pearls around her grandmother's neck are now hers. A few years later, I joined them one Thanksgiving. We made new photographs of the whole group and of Hallie's father, aunt, and me together middle-aged rather than young. I sent copies to my brothers who also marveled at the coincidence.

The lagniappe of distance connections is delightful, but not nearly so much as Hallie, a charming young woman I am proud to claim as my almost-God-niece.

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