Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Traveller

As I rocked Coo to sleep last night, I spoke quietly on the phone with an unexpected caller.
Her name is Margaret, and she is 88 years old.  She and I have a common ancestor; his name is Elisha Hicks and he was born in the 1820's, in an unknown state, of parents whose names remain a mystery.  She is deeply involved in solving this family mystery of Elisha's parents' identity, and explained about the possibility of a DNA pool search, which will probably be her next step.  
The most interesting aspect of her phone call, for me, was her.
She was phoning me because I am a relative and I live in the UK.  At the moment, she is down south in Dorset, visiting a long-time friend.  Why does she have friends here?
We have to delve deeper into her story before we get to that! She graduated from the University of Tucson, in Arizona, many years ago.  She met her first husband at university and had three children with him before he was killed in a "motoring accident".  Her words.  She spoke so properly and succinctly that it was difficult -no, impossible- to place her accent. 
I soon found out why. After her first husband died, her children were "two-thirds grown", and she packed up and moved with the youngest to Greece, to teach. As you do. After Greece, she moved to the Hague, in the Netherlands, and taught in an international school. There she met her second husband. Together, they went to Central Africa, near the border of Zambia, and she taught for five years in a training school for teachers. Then they returned to Greece, where they lived in Athens. Upon retirement, they returned to Tucson, where Margaret's second husband died. After his death, she sold property that they owned in Greece "which was near the temple of Poseidon", and used the money to return to her life in Greece. After many years there, her grandchildren were getting married and wanted her to return home. So she did, and now lives in Tucson again. She travels to Europe every so often to visit "many dear, dear friends" in England, Greece, and Holland.
And her plans for the future? She'd like to live in England during the summer months and Greece during the winter. I have no doubt that she'll do this!
She also told many interesting stories from the family. Two of Elisha's granddaughters married "very, very successful Japanese businessmen" in America in the 1920's. One of these Japanese-American couples were the parents of identical twin boys. The twins became (also "very, very successful") psychiatrists. One  was "distinguished" in military service during WWII, in spite of initially nearly being sent to prison as a conscientious objector. The son of one twin is a bio-chemist, living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania; he has been instrumental in helping Margaret construct the DNA pool research idea.  (I hope I've got all these facts right; if not, feel free to correct me if you know them!)
I put the phone down after her firm "goodbye dear," feeling very young and untravelled.  Listening to her proper, school-teacherish voice relate this skeleton of her lifetime, I was left in awe. Her place in history, her time, her generation, her journey has been so much more than anything my generation can even dream of. She travelled before globalisation. Before all the high streets in England looked alike. Before Greece was just a British boozers destination. Before Africa was saved by Madonna, Angelina, and Live Aid.  

Eighty-eight years. 
So, what shall I plan for the next sixty?!


  1. Daniel Nobbs1:45 am

    This sounds like an amazing phone call :) ...

    Was it completely out of the blue?

  2. Not quite. My mother had told me she'd be calling... but I had no idea when. :)

  3. Anonymous2:02 am

    Erin, I'm glad you were able to talk(or rather listen?) to Margaret. You gathered information Margaret and I did not touch upon in our phone conversation. We talked about other things...the estate in Florida, relatives in France, etc.

  4. I think 'listen' was the appropriate word there! Estate in Florida and relatives in France... why am I surprised that there was so much more? What a character!


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