Exactly My 'Type' by Mama Baer
An Ancestor Story contest entry
I knew Grandpa had siblings across town, but for the very few times we saw them they may as well have resided in Timbuktu. Despite the fact that Bonnie Jean was Grandpa Vic's baby sister, the two of us never became acquainted. Our separate worlds orbited around different suns, it seemed. The only two things that symbolized the intersection of our proverbial Venn diagram were Grandpa and Grandma, the Mercury and Venus to our little family's Earth.
It was Grandma who donated $50 for me, her first grandchild, to attend the fifth-grade summer camp my parents couldn't afford. And she probably said, "Never you mind," the day she learned I caught an early ride home sitting shotgun in the seat of Principal Gunther's truck when a bout of homesickness left me feeling sick as a dog.
Grandma and Grandpa never missed a performance during the year I spent on the high school drill team. They gifted me their grey 1975 IBM Selectric typewriter at graduation in honor of my Business Scholar award. Typing and shorthand were my passions. I could whip out both at 130 words a minute.
When I introduced my college boyfriend, an avid golfer, and PE major, my grandparents were his biggest fans. They loved our wedding photo. The photographer posed James in a big wicker chair (all the rage back then) and I sat beside him on the arm. We became the parents of five.
My interests, quirks, and educational goals were unlike any other woman in our family.
* * *
During a recent visit to my parents one evening, Mom handed me a white three-ring binder procured from a cousin. I thumbed through sheet-protected pages until black and white photos of a beautiful girl caught my eye. They were labeled, Bonnie Jean. I studied a snapshot. Bonnie stood in the yard wearing a drop waist dress and bobby socks, her brown hair was curled and shoulder length. Another photo revealed a more mature Bonnie sitting on the arm of a wicker chair, swimsuit-clad. One more captured affection for both the baby boy she cradled in her lap and her attractive husband, together making a remarkably handsome couple.
I flipped back to the three single-spaced typewritten pages I initially skipped.
"Her life sketch," Mom clarified from the couch across the room. Bonnie died at age 55 the year after I married.
I silently read the tribute delivered at Bonnie's memorial service by Beverly, her long-time schoolmate.
"Bonnie Jean, a homebody," her friend recounted. "I remember when we went to Girls Camp. She became so homesick, her family had to come get her. The rest of us were glad to be away from home, but not Bonnie."
My eyes widened. Feeling oddly validated, I continued Beverly's newsy oration. I learned of Bonnie's special aptitude for business courses; so much so that she was frequently invited to record local funeral proceedings in shorthand during school hours, returning to transcribe her notes for family members of the deceased.
Stunned, I read as Beverly concluded her remarks, matter-of-factly stating my great aunt Bonnie attended the same college I did. She was a member of the drill team. She married Max, a PE major and football tight end. They were the parents of five children.
I looked up from the plastic-covered folio. My heart raced. Family members in the room were absorbed in conversation, unaware of the feelings that gripped me. Eager to share, I blurted each analogous discovery about the two of us, delighted I no longer qualified as a "trailblazer." Uncanny parallels were set in orbit long ago by a relative I never knew, two generations my predecessor.
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