Small World…

The universe has a way of reminding us that we live on a small planet.

I work in a government office in Southeastern Virginia. I am part of an eight-man team; six are government civilians, two are active-duty military officers. Of the eight, three have childhood roots in Brooklyn or Nassau County on Long Island. Our Colonel lived, as a child, up along the New York border with Canada. The rest of us voted and decided that anything north of Albany is Canada. While it is statistically odd that we have four New Yorkers (OK, three, and an honorary Canadian), what happened last week stopped me in my tracks.

A recently reported Marine Lieutenant Colonel to the organization came to see me last week to discuss some work issues. We got to talking, and I learned that he was originally from Weymouth, Massachusetts. Weymouth is not far from where my parents live in Scituate, Massachusetts. When he asked if I grew up in Scituate, I told him that I grew up in Brooklyn and went to high school in Pennsylvania. My parents moved to Scituate to retire. I guess moving east kept the retirement police from sweeping them up in a dragnet and depositing them in The Villages down in Florida. I found out that the Lieutenant Colonel moved, at some point during his childhood, with his family to North Carolina.

I did not think anything of the conversation until my phone pinged on Friday evening of Easter weekend. It was my North Carolina by way of Massachusets transplant Lieutenant Colonel texting me. (Wait, how did he get this number?  My “Canadian” Colonel must have handed over my digits.)

What are the odds that a coworker down here in the Old Dominion had a mother-in-law that went to the same high school as my mother? Now, this was getting a little strange. As I am probably twenty years older than my Marine friend, I had no reason to suspect that his mother-in-law and my mother could have been there at the same time.

Yeah, small world. But I could not let it go at that. My mom has two sisters, and both graduated in the 1960s from the same all-girls high school. I sent another text.

Pause. Seconds pass by. My phone rings.

“I thought this would turn into a phone call!” I said.

It turns out that his mother-in-law graduated in Maureen’s class. She took control of the phone and cut out the middle man. She introduced herself as Celie. And she started down Memory Lane, along 8th Avenue in Park Slope in the early 1960s.

What followed was a conversation about her high school classmates, her good friend Kathy (Kathy and her sister Ellie platooned as babysitters for my siblings and me, I am sure we owe them an apology), and a host of names that I have not heard in a while. After a few minutes, she asked me to pass on her regards to my aunt and wished me a Happy Easter. It was time for her to focus on family in the present.

I immediately texted Maureen to pass along the story of the exchange. In an email back to me the next day, Maureen covered most of the same connections and relationships I had spoken with Celie about on the phone.  It was fun to read the email thread from Maureen (who was always more of the cool older sister than an aunt to my siblings and me).

I love small world stories and it’s amazing how many happen.

Aunt Maureen

It is a small world, and I am now convinced that Brooklyn is, indeed, the center of the universe.

Brooklyn Bridge in Winter by Childe Hassam, 1904 Telfair Museum, Savannah

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