May 15Liked by Alison Acheson

This is what I've known for 66 years: my mother from Lindsay, Ontario went to New York City to the Parson School of Design and was an au pair to an opera singer to pay her way. My father, family deeply-rooted in Lockport, NY, went to Columbia in NYC after WWII on soldiers' benefits. He completed his Masters in English and was working on his PhD, seeing a woman named Ramona but determined not to marry until he had his PhD. He went to a tea dance (for the first time ever as I write this I ask: why not with Ramona?) and met my mother. They danced. He asked her to marry him. She said, "Only if you can guess where I'm from." He guessed, "Bobcaygeon." My mother nearly fell through the floor: her parents had recently purchased property in Bobcaygeon and were building a brand new architect-designed cottage on the burned-out premises of the last cottage. My father had fished in Bobcaygeon, his only guess. Bull's eye.

A couple of years ago my sister circulated a photo I had never seen and knew nothing about. My aristocratic grandmother is in it, seriously disapproving. My mother is my mother beside a tallish, dark-haired man. Taller than my father. My sister tells us, though apparently I'm the clueless sibling, that this was my mother's - fiance?- between her graduation from the University of Toronto and attendance at Parsons. He was an engineer on his way up but had some kind of disability that kept him out of the war.

Why didn't my mother marry him? She would likely have had the luxurious life to which she was accustomed. When and how did the relationship end? Was he too uncomplicated for her? When they married my father was working in insurance, seemingly on the way to riches enjoyed by others in his family. He hated it, though, talking people into spending more money than they needed on more insurance than they needed. He became a high school English teacher - he'll never set the world on fire, her father dismissed him and so did the rest of her family for my father's entire life - refusing to apply for principal, he so loved the classroom. When he died in 1989 our church was filled, standing room only, so respected was this man who would never set the world on fire. After the funeral the receiving line was over one and one half hours as people told us about the positive effect my father had had on their lives.

My mother, like all her family, was a snob, but my father tempered that. He believed in accepting people for what they had done on their own, not their social or birth position. Something in my mother responded to that call. She suffered for it. My father was not a saint, alcohol always an issue. Still, despite a desparately small income (teachers did not make money when I was growing up) that she stretched and stretched in keeping with the Scottish side of her heritage, she was a behind-the-scenes-force to be reckoned with, and humorous. "I will not have quitters in this family," was one of her standards. "That's thigh thickener, Amy" she teased as I sucked on beloved M&M's.

For all I knew her so well, doing anything for her siblings and their children, stay at home but independent of opinion and activities, it turns out my mother had a hidden and mysterious episode in her life. She died two years ago, suffering dementia, so I will never be able to ask her about the mysterious dark-haired engineer with a disability who preceded my complex father.

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Wow! So much here... a book or two, too.

And why not Ramona indeed?

"Meant to be" insistently echoes through even as you don't voice it (thank you! I get to hear it all by myself.)

Coincidence. I wrote a post about how each story can have one of them. But this--real life--has more. How we braid reality and fiction and history and questions...

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