Although I guess I had always known, it was really at her funeral that I realized how different Mom was from her younger siblings. Looking down the row of mourners, I thought she might have been even more different from hers than I was from my own younger siblings.
It was brought home even more when I overheard Uncle Pat talking to Aunt Ann at the wake. I don’t remember everything, but the way Ann said, “She was so much like our mother in oh so many ways,” that struck me. Pat nudged her after that statement and tilted his head towards me.
They changed the subject.
Why? What was it about her?
Mom was a War baby. Grandma and Grandpa were married just after he was drafted in early ’42. They wanted to be sure it happened just in case he never returned.
Ironically he spent the War Stateside pushing paper while she spent most of it as a nurse in England.
There were whispers in the family. Of course there were. Mom was born in early ’45. Some counted back to Grandmother’s visit home in the winter of ’44 and wondered.
But it was rarely spoken about. Grandad was always Grandad and always would be.
And there were no more words about it at the funeral or wake, at least none that I overheard.
Soon everyone drifted back to their own homes and lives.
Except a few of us.
Poor Dad. The huge house was just too much for him and he had already bought a small place. It was supposed to be for the two of them with the thought that Mother, 10 years younger than Dad, would be able to take care of it after he was gone. Who knew that it would be him in it alone?
Once everyone else was gone, my brother Pat, named for our uncle, and myself stayed and helped Dad sort things out.
It was hard going.
I finally headed home with the back of my SUV filled with boxes and a promise to come back in a month to pick up another load.
A lot of the boxes I grabbed where actually my Grandmother’s things. I had never known her well, but there was a huge connection.
The boxes that struck my curiosity, of course, where all marked “England”.
Of course they weren’t all Grandmother’s. Mom had spent the three years after graduating college over there before returning home to marry Dad.
I was born a very short time later. Well, not “later” when you talk about their wedding, since I was born before that, but a short time after returning to the US. Yeah, Dad’s brother Mike sometimes called me “The Little Shotgun” when I was growing up.
Despite Uncle Mike’s jokes, Mom never really talked about that time period, and less about England itself. If I thought of it at all, I assumed she was looking for her real father, even though nobody ever said that the man I called “Grandfather” wasn’t her real father.
The first box I opened was filled with stamps ripped off of the corner of letters and packages. There were hundreds of them, perhaps thousands. All were from England.
I started looking at them and sorting them by date, since most of them had the postage mark on them. I saw a few from ’43. Obviously Grandmother sending letters to Grandfather when she first arrived. Surprisingly, many were from the later 40s and on into the 50s and even the 60s.
My real grandfather?
I banished the thought, but continued.
Another box had stamps from the late 60s. OK, must have been Mother’s trip and letters back to Dad.
But then the 70s? And 80s? Who was she getting letters from in the 2000s?
And then I saw an entire envelope. It was from 1993, when I was still in college. It had her name and address on it, but no sender.
The note had been removed long ago, of course. Oh, how I wish I could have found all of the notes and letters instead of just stamps!
But there was a small photo hidden in that envelope.
It was of a man who would have been about Mom’s age in ’93. He was very handsome.
And he looked very familiar. I had seen those eyes before.
And that was it, those stamps the only souvenirs from her time in England.
I really only occasionally thought about the stamps for weeks until I received a call from my brother, Pat.
Pat was just like Dad in so many ways. He looked like him, talked like him and even thought like him. There was so little of Mom in Pat, and he was very different from his namesake.
Me, of course, was always called a spitting image of Mom and had zero resemblance to Dad.
I hadn’t really thought much about that, until this call, perhaps because Pat had brought up our Aunt and Uncle in the conversation.
I was nodding, thinking of my brother and my father when I passed a mirror and saw a stranger. No, not a stranger.
I saw the man from the photo looking back out of the mirror at me.
“It is funny how much Mom was just like Grandmother,” Pat was saying.
I nodded at my reflection and smiled.
“Yes, it is, isn’t it?” I said.
From that time those stamps became my dearest position, a collection I could go through and dream about. Those wonderful stamps, and that face now stamped so clearly in my mind.
This was written for the writephoto challenge, no hosted by KL Caley. KL provided the photo and key word, Stamps.