The Find-It Gene

 The Find-It Gene

There are traits that seem to run in families, like sibs who all have the same color hair, crooked smile and silly sense of humor. One trait or talent that I’m most proud of passing on is what I call “The Find-It Gene”. Along with the curly hair of my youth and talent at the baking counter, my son shares this gene with me.

Having been adopted, it’s been a bit harder for me to try and figure out from where some of my traits and talents come.

I met a half-sib on my birth-mother’s side once who told me I had “mom’s hands”. Let me tell you how absolutely thrilled I was to at last know how I resembled somebody!

I was fortunate to have met my birth-father a year before his passing and learn that we shared some pretty quirky things, like the framed picture in his house proclaiming him as “The Word Police” and me sharing that same title in mine.

We both felt that a true sign of hearth and home was a big Le Creuset pot of soup, simmering away on top of the woodstove…although 3000 miles apart we both had the very same model of Vermont Castings Woodstove.

Let me give a few examples of how  “The Find-It Gene” works.

During my marriage to a brilliant but very disorganized man, I was often asked to find pieces of writing and work he had done from decades passed. On one occasion, the task was to find a small piece of printed paper from about 20 years prior. The only instructions were that it would be somewhere in his archives.

His archives were rather extensive, scattered on every floor and in every part of the house in various states of organization and disarray much, bless his heart, like him.

With little direction, I started in the basement where the bulk of the more organized papers were. After several hours I had found nothing.

Next, I proceeded to the main floor of the house, where more than two rooms were devoted to his work, for another hour of searching, still turning up nothing.

I climbed up the narrow and steep stairs to the attic bedroom, half of which housed more boxes, books and memorabilia, to see if I might have success up there.

I poked around in some boxes feeling quite fatigued and frustrated with this whole darn search process. Could this one sheet of paper possibly be all that important? It was feeling more ridiculous to me with each passing minute.

Determined not to leave any leaf unturned, I did one last thing.

I stood in the middle of that top floor filled with boxes and waited for a few minutes with my eyes closed and let go. Then, I kid you not, I put my hand in a random box…actually, it felt like my hand just went in to the box on its own, and guess what I pulled out?

That’s right!

It was a small printed sheet of paper the same size and shape that he had described to me earlier.

I felt like Little Jack Horner when he put in his thumb and pulled out a plum!

This is how “The Find-It Gene” works…at least for me. I can’t explain it. I can only do it.

It happens most when I don’t push it; that is, it happens when I’m not looking for anything in particular and then the perfect something will turn up that just blows me away.

The most recent experience of this was this past week in my hometown of Santa Barbara. There were several hours before I was to catch my plane last Wednesday, and a dear friend of 40 years and I knew just what to do with them.

We headed to State Street to look at “old stuff”, as we call it, at one of our favorite second hand stores. It’s something that I remember doing with him even when we were young college students so long ago. Some things never change, yes?

For me, the journey in the store starts on the right hand side aisle, down the narrow pathway with its alcoves and cases of junk, swings around the back of the store to the covered outside area where there are larger pieces like dressing tables and garden art, and finally up the left hand aisle for more bookshelves and racks filled with shoes, dishes, records, postcards, clothes, odd appliances…the usual and the unusual, making a complete “U” of the store.

We can spend hours in that store, sharing our treasure-finds with each other, trying to figure out what an old electric chiropractic diagnostic machine really did, chuckling at an unworn pair of  brilliant turquoise-blue custom-made size 13 shoes, slowly turning the pages of a beautiful leather bound volume of hand-tinted photos of Washington State from the 1920’s.

Treasures are everywhere waiting to be discovered!

I approached an alcove on the left hand path filled with boxes, bins and crates of pictures, old sheet music and scrap books.

In the bin to which I walked without a thought as to why, I saw one cardboard sheet that was larger than the rest sticking up at a slightly askew angle. It’s edges were torn from where it had once been spiral bound.

I kept digging to find another sheet that matched it with pictures mounted with those little triangle shaped stick on things that came in tiny boxes and later plastic bags.

On it were mounted pictures of two women…

…pictures of two women in leis and brightly colored dresses…

…pictures of…

O.M.G….they were pictures of my grandmother, Vesta Marie,  known as “Geeg”,  She also was The Queen of Lemon Meringue Pie!

My grandmother, “Geeg”, is in red. Mrs. Anderson is in yellow.

There she was with her friend, Mrs. Anderson (my elementary school principal) in pictures from the late 1960’s, on the trip they took together to Hawaii on the Lurline, the big white steamer that made the 5-day crossing between Los Angeles and Honolulu.

I couldn’t believe that she was looking back at me across the years in those pictures, but then again… I could. Like that one little printed sheet I pulled out of the box years ago, here was another find.

Looks like my “Find-It Gene” is in fine working order. I have no idea where it comes from and who else in my birth-family with whom I may share it, but grateful I am to have it.

And, to whoever passed this gene onto me…maybe someday I’ll find you when I’m not looking and be able to thank you personally…

…but on second thought, maybe you’ll find me!


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  1. Pam says

    Kate, you are beyond special {G} – I have been known to have something show up in a place I’ve already thoroughly explored, looking for it! Woo-woo, indeed.

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