Everyone seems to be doing lists and recaps today...internet, TV, radio, print media. "What happened this year?" "Top 100 _insert your adjective and noun here__."
I'd like to close this year with something that made me pause with wonder and emotion last week. It is a story that began with a valentine. From 1888.
This is a valentine that we had found in the house. I pored over census lists and message boards to uncover clues about its mysterious owner. And then, something that made me hold my breath. A possible relative. An email address. A connection.
Out of respect for her privacy, I won't disclose any of her information. But after she answered a few (probably confusing) emails from me, I was 99% positive that this woman was related to Annie. I wanted to make sure that Annie's valentine was returned to someone who Annie also loved.
She gave me the town and address that Annie had moved to after she left Ash Grove. It turns out that I lived 10 minutes from Annie's old house for a number of years.
On a whim, I scanned and shared some other old photos I had found here as well. There was Annie.
Before I could scan more photos and determine which prints showed Annie's kin, I became sick and was struggling with my health and the house. The Annie Project rested on my desk for weeks.
Right before Christmas, I was determined to send Annie back. The house was torn apart, but I dug up an intact box. On December 19th I didn't have a lot of time to get the package to its destination. I sorted through the other photos, looking for Annie's face or other prints from the same photography studio. I was able to pack up a handful and ship them off.
On December 23rd, I received a touching note (here is an excerpt):
I opened the box and there, on top, was a picture of my grandfather! Then down a way, there was one of my Dad that I'd never seen.
I cried. Sending these photos back was as much of a gift for me as it was for her.
The pictures I have of my grandparents and other relatives are so important to me. I love to look at them and search for connections to the faces of my sisters, my niece, my nephew. Whose eyes? Whose hair? Who made the choices that placed me where I am today?
And then, on Christmas Day, Aaron's Aunt Marvel (who IS a marvel :) handed me a gift.
It was a photograph album. Aaron as a little boy. Aaron's family--his mother, his grandparents, his great grandparents. It was one of the most special things anyone could ever have given to me. I have a wonderful family, and I've gained a wonderful family. Few things could touch my heart more than the trust that they have placed in me with these precious photos.
I felt like Annie was paying me back for sending her home.