A U.S. Citizen and three Bulgarian tourists walk into an antique store in small town U.S.A.
No horse, no saloon, no long face.
Doing something that I and many Americans have always wanted to do/yet never have done, my Bulgarian friends (Lucy, her husband Vasco, and 9-year-old Sasha) flew into Los Angeles and headed East across the entire United States. They visited multiple National Parks, picked up the pace by taking a short flight to Chicago. Then they drove to Cleveland, New York City, and eventually a three-day stay touring our nation’s capital. At which point, I picked them up and drove them to The World Traveler’s Favorite Destination… Woodstock, Virginia.
After a near month of travel, we spent the first two days in Woodstock just chilling. Which was easy for me because that’s what I do. Lucy cooked most every meal and they were delicious. Several things that I love about Bulgarians….the food is fresh, it’s almost “plant based” but with a hunk of protein somewhere in the recipe. I went five days without watching TV or reading a newspaper. Lunchtimes were spent noshing on fruits, dinners never started before Eight O’clock. And with only music playing in the background, we talked. Adults and a young man.
Later in the week, we visited the spot where Lucy and I first met fifteen years ago, The Stonewall Jackson Inn. Then we went for HOT DOGS at Jesse’s, a new experience for three of the four diners. The rest of the afternoon was spent at Luray Caverns, an easy sell with both Lucy and Vasco being geologists.
So, anyway. The point of the story.
We went for the mandatory visit to the Woodstock Tower.
On the way back down the hill, Vasco kept asking about where we might get a map of the U.S., so that Sash could physically etch his course across our country to show friends and family once he got back home.
I took a left going through French’s Woods and then a right down past the dairy farm. Back into town, we stopped at Valley Treasures.
Inside the store, Vasco migrated towards the antique tool equipment section, Lucy looked at old cameras, and Sasha tried his best to spend the last $9.00 of allowance money that he had after traveling across our wonderful country. They milled about, Sash ran about, and I eventually became bored.
Back near the furniture section, I heard a familiar voice.
With my eyes a twirling and my head a spinning, my only thought was “Is that Aunt Marion”?
There are people in my life, and hopefully yours, that I only think of as Aunt, or Mister, or Mrs. For forty-plus years, Aunt Marion was my late best friend Mitch’s Aunt. She wasn’t blood. Didn’t share a last name. But when I called her last night for permission to tell this story, I first looked in the phone book under “A” for Aunt. And then I remembered that she had a last name.
Vasco had found an old wood planer. Sasha had found multiple pieces of silver cutlery which totalled under $9.00. Lucy was trying to decide on which crystal dinner bell that she liked best and if it would survive the trip back home.
I was bored, leaning against a display shelf, and then I looked down to my left. There were two small pictures. One was of a girl, maybe a teenager. The other was of a young boy wearing a dress, which was not unusual 100 years ago. I looked at the backside of that picture and handwritten it said ‘Fred Emswiller’.
Stunned, I could hear Aunt Marion’s voice near the cashier’s desk not twenty feet away. I hurried towards her to show this potential treasure.
“Oh, my gosh”
“That’s my Dad”
The cashier spoke up and then three gentlemen that had just entered the store became part of the conversation.
“That’s your Father?”
“Yes, it is”.
The conversations around the cashier’s desk escalated and I retreated back to Lucy.
“Yea, that was her Father’s picture”
And we went home. An American and three Bulgarians, who just happened to find a picture, the Father of an 80-something-year-old women who was an Aunt to my best friend.
What are the odds?