In a previous post, Another Woman’s Life, we met our intriguing heroine dumpster diving at a Goodwill depot center. (Wait…no… that makes it sound like she was doing the diving when actually I was in the dumpster…Sigh. Go read that post, it makes more sense.)
Today, the mystery continues with some closure achieved, a lot of discoveries made, and questions answered. Just maybe, not the answers you were expecting or hoping for. But let’s go back a bit–to the beginning of November–when I make that first phone call based off the address and last name I possess:
Me: (Dials number with shaking hands….)
Me: (Dithers nervously…thinking maybe this is a bad idea, almost hanging up when…)
Phone machine answers: “Hi, you’ve reached the home of [redacted]….please leave a message after the beep.”
Me: (In nervous rush): “Hi, my name is Kiri, my number is [blah blah blah] I was at a Goodwill Depot recently and I think I have something of yours. Please call me.“
I am so sick with nerves leaving that call, but also triumphant. Soon I will meet my mystery subject and have some closure. Or so, I think. A couple days pass. I try to be patient.
I rarely pick up phone calls if I don’t recognize the number, so it isn’t surprising when other people don’t either. But the first number I call never responds. Hunh. Maybe they aren’t related to the mystery Family B? Or perhaps they are jaded and uninterested in mysteries?
I do Google searches again and this time, I find a woman with the same name living within a twenty mile radius of the original address. Huzzah! I leave the same message, with the added detail that I found some photos I thought might belong to her–in case the earlier, vague reference saying “I think I have something of yours…,” sounds too much like the sinister call a kidnapper might make. I hang up…and wait.
Fifteen minutes later…
Mystery Lady #1: “Hi. I got your message…”
Me: (Interrupting in my enthusiasm): “Oh, hi. Thanks for calling me back…”
I blither at her for a few seconds reciting the story and then stop to take a breath and she is able to interject what she was trying to tell me.
Mystery Lady #1: “Um, yeah. I don’t think I’m the person you are looking for.”
This stops me short. She has to be wrong! I quiz her…I ask her if I have the right name at least?
She agrees, but adds, “I spell my name with an ‘A’ instead of an ‘E.'”
She actually sounds sorry that I’ve reached the wrong Lindsay/Lindsey. Then she says something that gets my hopes back up.
“Actually, I kind of know the other Lindsey–at least I’ve heard of her–the one you are looking for. Other people told me about her–we are about the same age. I think she went to Calvin Christian High School.”
I sit up and scribble the year and the school. I’m envisioning a trek to the school archives to find the elusive Lindsey if I have to. (I’m a lot more active in my imagination than I am in real life.) Just before I ring off with the current Lindsay, I ask her if she would Facebook Friend me and I give her my full name. (I am unique, in that I am the only person with my name on Facebook. It’s both a convenience and a curse.)
Later that day, I accept the friend request from Lindsay and send her a message. Mere minutes later she messages me back:
Lindsay with an ‘A’: “I think this is the Lindsey I was thinking of.”
She includes a screenshot of the ‘Other Woman.’ She has since married…and moved to another state. I would never have found her on my own.
I’m flabbergasted, and impressed. If you ever need someone to Nancy Drew a distant relation or name doppleganger, have I got the Lindsay for you! In fact, I highly recommend Lindsay with an A for all your motivational needs. She is very enthusiastic and supportive. When I sent her the original story (complete with factual errors) she had this to say:
Lindsay with an A: “I love this!!!! I only wish I was the one you were writing about:). I love that you put all this time and effort into the mystery.”
I thank her and I shoot a quick message to the Other Woman, but since we aren’t friends on Facebook, I expect this to be fruitless.
Instead, I search the online people finder sites using the state and married last name and come up with an address–but no phone number. I could mail the photos and hope it is the right person. But that just feels wrong…and also lacking in plot development.
Sidebar: (I think modern detective novels have got to take a lot of license when they create the mysteries that can’t possibly be solved by Google in ten seconds of moderately difficult web searches. Everybody is a Sherlock Holmes at the click of a button nowadays.)
I go about my life with no immediate way forward other than to cross my fingers and hope. Less than twelve hours later, I get a reply via Facebook Messenger.
Lindsey (the right one this time): “Yes that is me! That’s way back when I was in college! I’m so glad you found me! I am worried that my mom went through and got rid of all my old stuff…pics and memories….. It’s a long story but I always hoped someday I would get my things back. Again, I really appreciate you reaching out to me!“
Me: “You can thank Lindsay B. She lives in Grand Rapids still. I found her first and she knew of you. She found you on Facebook for me. There are a lot of Lindseys on Facebook. You have a popular name!”
We exchange emails and I send my draft of Another Woman’s Life and get approval for that story. A few questions get answered–it turns out her father was cleaning out the basement and thought he was donating boxes of books to Goodwill–a promise is made to write the follow-up story.
And then…Covid happens.
My son brings it home from school. We had just survived the flu and then immediately catch Covid 19–and not the friendly, gentler Omicron variant. We get the ugly bug. And I just cannot write. I can’t even get off the couch. It takes me four weeks to get back to feeling any shade of normal–and I’m still using a steroid inhaler!
But even as I cough and wheeze and fight to get upright, the story itches inside waiting to be told. When I finally get to my computer again, I have some answers and a disappointing realization that, despite my love of mysteries, it turns out–I’m no Sherlock.
I ask about a dozen questions in all; our intrepid heroine answers them as she can.
Lindsey: “There is so much history packed into these photos. Some of your dates are off though. I think this is due to the fact that cameras used to have a feature where you could set the date on it to show up on the picture. I never could figure out how to set it correctly!”
According to Lindsey, I was off by about seven years!
Lindsey: “The college ones were from 2001, I believe. I was 21 then. I can share all the real information with you about these pics but I’m wondering if that would take away your fun of having a “mystery woman”!? Let me know.”
I’m torn. I have a deep-seated need to know details–to pry every crumb of fact from the fiction I created when I looked at the collection that sparked my imagination.
I learn that my former mystery lady never dated flip-phone guy–though he dearly would have liked her to. Lindsey would have liked to date his best friend instead. It was a total love triangle in the making. Swoon.
As to the roses in one shot? A Valentine’s Day gift.
The Northwestern College which pictured pranks involving Saran Wrap, as it turns out, is NOT the college our Lindsey attended. She and her friend Mary decided it would be a good idea to take a cross-country adventure together for Spring Break. But surprise, surprise, they did NOT head to Florida as I had guessed–though, to be fair, who would expect Orange City to be anywhere else?
Lindsey: “Northwestern College is located in Orange City, Iowa…not Florida. Who goes to Orange City Iowa, population 6,000 in the middle of corn fields, for Spring Break?!! Well, that would be me and my friend Mary (the girl in the pearls). It was a spontaneous non-stop 13 hour straight roadtrip to visit our friends Missi and Jonathan who attended Northwestern. “
I did a similar thing myself on Spring Break in 1990–visiting a friend from the Army for a few days back when we were both on vacation from higher learning. I drove across the plains of Iowa and wondered how in the world anyone could navigate through such flat land with only pig farms and corn fields as navigation tools. (This was before the invention of GPS.) That and a horrid ice storm are the only memories I retain from that whirlwind weekend.
There is a freedom at that age–where you are no longer a child but not yet a fully tethered adult–a time period that you don’t know is finite or priceless until it is gone.
When I ask Lindsey which pictures matter the most to her, she echoes my sentiments:
Lindsey: “All of those pictures at Northwestern mean a lot. Such great memories of a time in life when I had responsibility but so much freedom at the same time. I could just pick up and go on a roadtrip whenever I wanted!”
Freedom goes hand-in-hand sometimes with recklessness, foolhardy choices, and regrets. But I think, if Lindsey has any, they do not stem from a time when she could make plans to be with friends, raise a modest amount of ruckus, and carry the memories of a time with very few limitations.
As to why a young man was lashed to a flag pole in what had to be pretty frigid weather–if April in Iowa is as unforgiving as it is in Michigan–Lindsey had this to say:
Lindsey: “Mary and Jonathan have been friends since they were young and were like brother and sister. The saran wrap was a prank just for fun. I believe Jonathan lost a bet which is why he was saran wrapped to the pole in his boxers. I just don’t remember what the bet was!”
As for Lindsey’s life path–first came college, a job, and then more college for her job:
Lindsey graduated with a “B.A. – Language Arts/Elementary Ed. from Cornerstone 2004. [as well as an] M.Ed – Curriculum and Instruction Concentration: Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University (2016).”
Turns out, Lindsey is an English Language Arts Teacher and has been teaching writing for fifteen years…and I sent her my barely edited post to her for approval. She was very generous in NOT returning it circled with red ink annotating my mistakes!
Most of my questions relate to the photos I recovered and how those friendships were sustained or strained by her life choices:
Me: “Are you still friends with the people in the pictures on campus?”
Lindsey: “I am friends with Mary on Facebook but haven’t talked to her in at least ten years. She lives in [Michigan] with her husband and kids. I still see Missi. We lost touch for awhile when I moved to AZ in 2007 but about six or seven years ago I found out she had moved to Palm Springs which is only a 4 hour drive from Phoenix so I contacted her on Facebook and basically invited myself over! We immediately picked up where we left off! She is now married with two kids and lives in [Arizona] so I see her occasionally.“
Friendships, lost loves, and a few scattered family photos don’t capture the complete person, but they do frame the moments that memories hang upon. One look in the photographic mirror of our former selves–to a past where we gathered with friends and yelled with exuberance as if time and mortality could not touch us–brings back the forgotten esprit de corp of youth and the feelings that our hearts held when they were as young and flexible as our bodies.
Of all the questions asked and answered, this was my favorite:
Me: “Do you still feel you are the same person now that you were at 21?”
Lindsey: “Hmm…Yes and no. That is a complex question! At my core ….my beliefs, morals, values are the same as they always have been. But I have come a long way in the last 20 years. I have been through a lot of hard things that I never thought I would get through but all of it has made me stronger. I am a much more confident and stronger person now. I was always quite shy growing up. Moving to AZ in 2007 was a huge out-of-my-comfort-zone experience for me. I am a person who hates change. I like to know what to expect all the time. I get comfortable and I like things to stay the same. I got hired for my first real teaching job over the phone and they asked if I could be there in two weeks so I packed up whatever I could fit into my car and drove 2,000 miles to Phoenix to start a new life. I think it happened so fast I didn’t have time to really think about it and talk myself out of it! Best decision I ever made! ….. I really think people need to go out and experience different places and even live in a different place then where they were born even if just for a little while. For me, it was the best decision to not return to MI to live.
This definitely resonated with me–not the shy part, obviously–but the need to stretch beyond the boundaries of expectation. I couldn’t wait to leave Michigan when I turned eighteen–to join the Army and seek the world. I did and I enjoyed it, mostly when I escaped the base and military restrictions. But all adventures end eventually.
After the Army, I came home to pursue college and a life based on the Midwest expectation of a career, a home, a husband, and children. Some of those dreams were realized, if only for a little while, and not necessarily in the way I expected. This does not make these achievements less worthy as life goals go. Perhaps, in point of fact, the goals we actualize in the face of real life and all its challenges should matter more than the dreams that sustained us in our youth. They are certainly more concrete and less fleeting.
The more I learn about Lindsey, the more I like and identify with what she has to say about life and where it leads us.
Me: “Where are you today because of the woman you were at 21? And is it where you wanted (or thought you wanted) to be?”
Lindsey: “At 2I, really thought I would get married soon and have kids young and just stay in MI like everyone else. That is just what you do. I never felt deep down that I fit in very well though. Like something was missing. Like there had to be more to life. I knew I loved traveling but never thought I would just pick up and move so quickly.“
We don’t really know who we are, who we can be, until we become that person through a thousand decisions–some small, some huge, with consequences we cannot see when we make them.
As for Lindsey, I think she is happy with where her steps have led her:
Lindsey: “I knew I wanted to be a teacher but never thought it would be in AZ! I never knew this is where I wanted to be until it just happened. I believe everything happens for a reason. Some of the reasons have been revealed along the way and some I’m sure I will understand in the future but I know I’m right where I should be.”
We are born, we grow, we make choices and those choices become our lives. I think the past two years have made me especially reflexive and introspective, needing to see the structure–the Matrix, if you will–behind how people become themselves over time. How we can try to reinvent ourselves but, at the core, we are drawn to the same patterns–of how our life is built choice by choice, step by step. And along the way, we catalogue and keep a version of ourselves printed or digitized for immortality–a reflection that hides more than it reveals.
I’m not sure I asked the right questions of our Mystery Lady, but I know I could ask a thousand questions and probably would still feel the depths are unplumbed. At some point, you have to put the pen down and let the story be what it is–a work in progress.
As for Lindsey? I mailed over one hundred photos in two cheesy Christmas albums for safety–with her name and address printed on the inside. So, if in some distant future they are separated or lost, they will find their way home again once more.
YOU READ THIS FAR BONUS:
As to the meaning or significance of the photo of a farm silo inexplicably found amongst the still life shots of college students and friends far and near? Even Lindsey was perplexed!
Lindsey: “I’m really not sure about that silo??? I don’t remember taking that one or why I would even do that!”
Some mysteries we just have to live with!