The geography of the newspaper circulation was broken out into seven regions overseen by managers and assistant managers who recruited, mentored, and basically babysat these kids five days after school and two very early weekend mornings.
My youngest munchkin was just under a year old and I had recently starting working for a nonprofit in Santa Rosa, California. My new boss and I decided to grab a cardboard-like sandwich at the nearby Quiznos. When we arrived, we found the CEO, HR Director, and warehouse supervisor sitting down to eat. We were invited to join them and I took the opportunity to get to know my new co-workers.
I asked the very friendly warehouse supervisor, Cindy, if she was originally from the area. The conversation went something like this:
Cindy: Born and raised in Santa Rosa. But most of my family is up in Washington.
Me: That's where I grew up! Most of my family is from there too.
Cindy: I have a big family. They're a bit scattered. I think I have several aunts in Washington, cousins in the Midwest, and last I heard, an Uncle Larry in Texas.
Me: Hahahaha. What a coincidence, I have several aunts in Washington, and an Uncle Larry in Texas too.
Cindy: My dad died when I was young, so we lost contact with most of my family. I'm not really sure where any one is any more.
Me: That's got to be hard. Wait. I had an uncle who was killed in California when I was young. Are any of your aunts by chance named Sue? (I'm that awkward person who always asks someone if they happen to know my friend who went to the same huge college and graduated a decade earlier.)
Cindy: WHAT?! Yes!
Me: And maybe Dee and Fran?
Me: Yeah, I'm Sue's daughter. Was your dad's name Glen?
Cindy: Holy *Bleep*
And that's how I discovered a very long, lost cousin.
Needless to say, the rest of the folks witnessing this exchange were looking for the hidden cameras because they couldn't believe that this really happened and were fairly certain they were being punk'd. Seriously. Who randomly meets their first cousin who grew up 800+ miles away at a casual work lunch?
My mom had been looking for Cindy for years and was ecstatic (and really stunned) that I "found" her. The long lost cousin has since been well-integrated into the family. She and my mom just got back from a trip to Hawaii to visit her son in the Navy.
But yes, besides the fact that she has all the right names, can recite the family "lore," and looks very much like our grandma, she dusted off old family photos for my mom who instantly recognized her older brother; a 32-year-old Navy vet who was tragically killed in Santa Rosa for being in the wrong place at the wrong time when I was 4 and Cindy was just 6.
Given my track record, I pretty much assume any person I meet these days could be my cousin. If Barbara, Jack, Glen, Larry, Fran, Dee, John, Kay, Faye, Jim, Clyde, or Bob sound like names in your family tree, drop me a note, Cuz.