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So there Bruce and I were Sunday morning at Cafe Roma in Berkeley. We drank coffee, read the San Francisco Chronicle and enjoyed our last bit of weekend in the Bay Area.
I sacrificed the A section to Bruce and settled with the E – Travel Section – where I read a fascinating piece – “Old France, New World” – about Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, a part of France that’s just a 55-minute boat ride from North America.
As I read the story, I wondered if my mother’s French Canadian/Irish Catholic relatives had ever visited there. Maybe they even lived there. I remember a photo of my mother sitting on a picnic table; her handwriting on the picture’s back side said Saint-something. Was it Saint-Pierre et Miquelon?
It’s the story of my life. I’m always searching for shreds of information about my mother’s family – Walsh on the maternal side, Deanhart on the paternal side. Rarely do I find anything. My mother’s family remains a tightly locked mystery that sends the best genealogy experts running the other way.
On the other hand, genealogists adore my father’s side – the Chamberlains. Eazy Peazy. For hundreds of years Chamberlains (OK, with a few exceptions) were upstanding citizens. They opened and operated businesses, they built communities, they served in the military and they held respectable jobs, Most of all, they even gave their real names on birth certificates, death certificates and marriage licenses. Accurate documentation up the wazoo.
Truth be known, I’m far less interested in my father’s side, and much more interested in my mother’s mysterious relatives. I’d trade my entire Fiestaware collection for even a single photograph of my mother’s parents or grandparents.
Sunday, these thoughts passed through my brain for the millionth time as Bruce and I swapped newspaper sections where I read a great piece – “Ten Days That Shook the City” – the 30-year anniversary of the double-header tragedy of former San Francisco resident Jim Jones’ mass suicide in Jonestown, and the murders of then-Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at the hand of ex-supervisor Dan White.
If you’re 40 or older, you probably remember those stories that rocked the world and especially San Francisco in November of 1978. I remember both events well. I was 22 and awaiting the birth of my first baby. My father, a radio broadcast personality, lived and worked in San Francisco.
As I read the story and followed the jump to page 11, I wondered what my dad would say today about those two horrible Bay Area-related events, if he were still alive.
That’s when I saw my father, in the huge vertical photograph that showed mourners filing past Moscone’s and Milk’s caskets. There was no missing him: bald head, beard, and that leather jacket he loved.
I’d have known him anywhere.