My husband and I used to be a couple of rolling stones when it came to traveling. We’d pack our tent in the trunk of our car and go wherever the winds seemed to blow us. We rarely did much preplanning because there always seemed to be an available spot for setting up our roving household. There was only one time when we got caught without a place to stay and that was many decades ago when we decided to visit Yellowstone National Park on a whim. We had a fun day exploring the park but when it came time to retire for the evening there was no room at the inn, not even a small space for our little tent.
We drove from one place after another attempting to find a spot to rest our weary bodies, but everything was full. We ended up parking by the side of the road and sleeping for a few hours all cramped together in our car. In many ways that was the end of our serendipity when it came to vacations. Still, there is nothing quite as wonderful as an unexpected moment that takes us off of the main road and along a pathway that we have never before thought to take. Thus it was when I received a message from a cousin inviting us to her home in Albuquerque.
A few years back I joined ancestry.com and began an attempt to fill out more of the branches of my family tree. In an effort to find out more about myself and my family I even took a DNA test. In the beginning I knew very little about my ancestors beyond my grandparents, but I did have the names of my maternal grandmother’s parents. Using that information her story began to quickly unfold. Her father was John William Seth Smith, the son of Austin Boley Smith and Biddy Ann Fitzsimmons. John was the eldest son of a very large family and among his brothers and sisters was a fellow named David.
Before long I received a message from one of David’s descendants asking me for information on my father, me and my family. Vickye was a cousin, a fact verified by my own chart and the DNA test that I had taken. She kindly sent me a photo of my grandmother Minnie Bell, from a time when she was quite young, something that I had never before seen. She also included a picture of my great grandmother Cristina. It was quite exciting to see these images and to know that I had found a relative who had been previously unknown to me.
Vickye looked so much like my Aunt Opal, my father’s half sister, that it was uncanny. Her ancestor, David, resembled many of my first cousins from my father’s side of the family. Even though nobody has ever come across a photo of my great grandfather, I have felt as though I may have a fairly good idea of how he may have looked given the resemblance of David to family members that I know. Learning about Vickye and her passion for genealogy was a special treat for me and so we became friends on Facebook and I began to follow her posts and learn more and more about her.
Vickye plays the piano and one of her favorite hobbies was to play music with her late husband Buzz. Likewise many of my Aunt Opal’s children were quite musically talented. My cousin Lillian used to dazzle us with her skills on the piano and some of her brothers both sang and played their guitars. I decided that there must surely be a music gene that runs in the family even though that skill appears to have passed me over.
I knew that Vickye lived somewhere in New Mexico, but I had little idea that her abode was in Albuquerque. When she saw that Mike and I were in her town she suggested that we come to her home for a little visit. We quickly accepted her generous offer and drove to her place. It would turn out to be one of the most incredible afternoons of our entire trip, and an touchingly meaningful moment for me.
Much like my grandmother Minnie Bell, Vickye has a green thumb and has turned her backyard into a lovely and peaceful oasis. Even though the temperatures were quite high on the day of our visit, her patio was cool and comfortable. We sat around a table under a fan sipping on iced tea and learning a bit more about each other and about the family from whence I have descended. Vickye was so like my grandmother Minnie Bell in her nature and her hostessing skills. I felt as though I had known her my entire life. She was an important connection for me because I had lost my father when I was only eight, and my grandmother died when I was fifteen. I had been too young then to have much interest in knowing who the people were who had come before me. Vickye filled in so many of the gaps that had baffled and bewildered me. In the process she demonstrated the power of those connections because not only did she remind me so much of various people in my father’s family that I did know, but everyone saw a definite resemblance between me and her.
I’m a talker and I haven’t gotten out much in the past year and a half so I might have overstayed my welcome just a bit, but I had a hard time tearing myself away from my new found relative. I truly felt comfortable with her in a way that only the bond of our common ancestry and genetics might explain. I will always remember our afternoon together as one of the great highlights of my life, and I am incredibly thankful to Vickye for inviting me to her home and telling me more about the story of who I am. I fell in love with her and with her city on that trip even as I had never imagined that such a thing would occur. There is still much magic in the unexpected.