Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The History Room: My Favorite Day

Currently Reading: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

She walks into the Local History Room as many of them do- timid, unsure. She is about my age, with long blond hair and a pretty smile. Her eyes are uncertain. She talks quickly, with a nervous energy that tells me her story long before her words do. She is here for a reason. They always are. The books, the obituaries, the newspapers all pause in anticipation, wondering if they have her story, if they will be what she needs.

Her mother had been adopted, she explains to me breathlessly. They had just learned the name of her real grandmother and that she had been a high school senior here. They are trying to find her, they've just started their search, and would we have her old high school yearbook? She pauses, still unsure, now a bit afraid. I smile, trying to convey some sort of reassurance in a single glance before answering in the affirmative and grabbing the key to the yearbook cabinet. I find the one she needs and show her to a seat. The History Room waits, breathless. Thanking me, she pulls out her digital camera and begins turning pages. I leave her, returning to my desk to afford her some privacy. Ten minutes later, a sob bubbles into the History Room, filling every corner with its pain and its relief, asking to be heard. I hear. I turn, to see her bending over the page, her blond, wispy hair falling across the photograph of the grandmother she's never known. I go to her, touching her lightly on the shoulder. She turns to me, her eyes pleading, holding out the yearbook, no longer unsure but still afraid. In a voice as innocent as a child's: "This is the first time I've seen my grandmother." These are not the first tears shed here, as pieces come together and stories are rediscovered. She is not the first to cry here and she will not be the last. Without words, I put my arms around her and we stand quietly, crying together, creating a moment of fragile strength, a bond linking the past to the present, the living to the dead.


  1. I remember you telling me this story. Hope all of her unanswered questions were solved and reality's past brought some comfort.


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