A month ago, I had a writers dream experience. A piece I had written was published in a national subscription magazine. I was thrilled beyond belief. Storytelling couldn't get any better than this, until Dustin texted me.
Dustin is a reader fan from the Great Brain and Finding Fitzgerald branch of my work. But by mid-May we were connected through my most recent article.
My piece is entitled, Coming Home, it is a recounting of a lifetime awaited trip to my birth town, the historic city of Orleans, France. Two weeks after the magazines release, I got a text. "Hi Carrie, have you written for Victoria Magazine?" I was on vacation and I couldn't place who Dustin was. His text piqued my curiosity. I sent back a brief reply confirming I had written a piece but nothing more. His response blew my mind.
I read that piece. My mom is a subscriber and shared the article with me. I was also born in Orleans in 1966. My dad was US Army Military Police.
"Holy Cow," was all I could think. I had never met anyone from Orleans. When I mentioned it to people, they assumed I meant New Orleans, Louisiana. Not today, right there in my phone was an Orleans buddy, in a brand-new way.
For the next few days, we swapped photos and the family memories we had grown up with. Both of us were too small to have remembered the experiences. Yet we both had family reminiscence, storytelling, and photographs to feed our lifestory memories.
Dustin's family in Orleans circa 1966
Carrie's family in Orleans (and Belgium) circa 1964
Sharing our vintage photos and family dynamics was a kick. It was like opening a time capsule. Then Dustin brought out the biggest surprise. The hospital we were both born in. Over the fifty years of my life, I had never considered what the hospital looked like. I knew it was an army-based hospital. My attachment to it was its name. Throughout my childhood I would rattle it off to anyone who would listen. La Chapelle, St. Mesmin, Orleans, France. That was romantic enough for me. Until Dustin topped it.
Found the old monastery hospital I was born in on the banks of the Loire River on Google Earth
I stared at the grainy newsprint image Dustin had sent. I couldn't believe that I, and two years later, Dustin, began our lives in such a stunning building more than a hundred years old. As I read the description of the hospital's history, I couldn't contain my delight or imagination. I pictured orders of monks busily healing the sick, diligently studying religious scrolls, or perfecting wine from the nearby vineyards in the lush Loire Valley. The building was more beautiful I had ever considered. That stunning relic was mine and Dustin's first home.
I asked Dustin if he had ever returned to Orleans. He said he hadn't, but that it is on his list to do. Because he read my piece he knew where I had gone and what I had seen in my one day, whirlwind tour of home Orleans. My article didn't include my trip photos. Dustin, these are for you and your mom. A brief tour of Orleans as it is now.
It is a Small World After All
Walt Disney got many things right, among them the phrase, It's a Small World Afterall. Dustin and I have never met in person. Our lives connected over a children's book series. Then out of the blue, because one of us told a life story, we added a new connection. We are both richer for those connections. We exchanged joy and delight. Our little experience is the seedling of what life itself is, our connections to one another, whether we realize it or not. Be brave, share your stories. Send out a connection to life. Let it reel in something extraordinary. Through our connections we can make it a small world after all.
Merci beaucoup, Dustin.