By Betsy Cross Thorpe
“You are the fairy tales told by your ancestors.” Toba Beta
SO FAR AWAY
He was a tall, handsome and adventurous boy. The only son of a well to do merchant. He captured my grandmother’s attention when she was a young girl and she fondly recalled his memory up through her old age. Her stories of him were vague, and the actual role he played in her life remains unclear.
My mother, my aunt and I, were all privy to her reminiscences of him. However, we don’t all recall her stories the same. I’m convinced that the boy’s name was Albert Thomas Firth Junior, but my mother is certain that his last name was Butts. My aunt disagrees with her. According to my aunt, the Butts family that befriended my grandmother were from Missouri, where my grandmother spent some years before her father moved his wife and children South to Mississippi.
I had the notion that the young pilot was in love with my grandmother, that he wanted to marry her, but that she chose my grandfather instead. My aunt remembers the story in a different way. She doesn’t think their friendship was ever that serious, but she does recall hearing that for some time my grandfather was quite jealous of my grandmother’s memory of the young pilot and that he would often tell her that she should have married that boy.
Until recently, when I did my research into the plane crash that killed Albert, I was sure that that he had taken my grandmother up in the air for a ride in his plane. But that can’t be true. My grandmother married my grandfather at least a year before he learned to fly and was the mother of a young son by the time he owned his own plane. Additionally, anyone who knew my grandfather would agree that he would never have allowed my grandmother to do such a thing.
More than forty years had passed from the time that he died, till the time that my grandmother told me about him. Of all the stories she told of her youth, the story of the daring young pilot was one of my favorites.
I just wish I had thought to ask her for more details. How did she learn that his plane went down? I wonder today if she was among the “large crowd” that witnessed the tragedy. Was she somewhere nearby? Did she hear the crash? His plane nosedived into a cottonfield. Was he flying over the cottonfield where she lived? I wish I knew.
But the big question I could have asked, one that is common to all, is this; Why did the memory of someone removed so far away by space and time, remain so near and dear to her heart? I could have asked her, but there really was no need.
I am a hopeless romantic and I always knew the answer.
For 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. From prompt “So Far Away.”