What are they? The harpies of lore, the Medusa’s, the ageless goddesses of time, venerated by many, revered by others, and envied by still others? That last one was me! I am, or was, one of those plain ones, envious of the reverence, ogling it’s called by many of my gender, still others call it admiration of the beautiful. But as a “Plain Jane”, I wasn’t sure of the reason for my envy or even of my true desires.
Mother always said I was attractive, Daddy said I was sweet, Aunt Liv said I was interesting, and Grams just loved me, but deep inside I knew how plain I was. I wore no make-up because I never could stand the stuff caking my face and if it weren’t for the necessity of perming my stringy, straight hair, I’d have no real “look” at all. My six-foot frame sent a lot of the guys in high school, and later college, running for those petite little dolls on the cheerleading teams. But the time came soon enough when I was unsure of all my past certainties about myself and made me question my future.
I received, one cool September morning, a letter informing me that an uncle, long lost so to speak, had named me as a potential beneficiary of his will, a necessity. He had disappeared under unusual circumstances some time earlier, and according to instructions left to his lawyers, all family members were being called to the ancestral home. Due to an extensive search for his body and a sufficient lapse of time since his disappearance, it was presumed that he was dead. Reference was made to some unusual habits he had which were responsible for the circumstances of his disappearance, but they were not fully disclosed or made clear to me. None of it made any sense at all so I decided to consult the family records, but that didn't help either.
I was intrigued. I remembered Grams telling me stories about her brother, Hugo, and the rest of the family, and although we had never met I felt like I knew them and lived life with them through her life, and her stories.
Hugo’s bequest, or the promise of such, required a journey of some distance. I was trying to decide whether my finances would allow me to travel at that time, when I noticed another scrap of paper sticking partially out of the envelope. It was a cashier’s check in the amount of $100,000. I reread the letter and found that the amount of the check had been pre-arranged by Hugo on my behalf in the event that anything happened to him. There were no strings attached, and if that was all I desired, no further reply was required; not even a disclaimer. Now, while I wasn’t the best professional computer technician (that’s a fancy way of saying typist) in the world, or even my adopted hometown, Passaic, New Jersey, I still had a few smarts about strategy and human nature – or so I thought. I could look at it two ways: Either I was wanted so badly that this was an incentive designed to get me there, or it was a pay-off not to show up at all. I was confused to say the least. Maybe it was only a kind gesture to ensure that I had enough cash to travel. Either way, I wasn’t satisfied and I felt compelled to go.
I was elated at the prospect of meeting family members I only knew from pictures and the stories Grams had told me. I called work, and told the girls in the office that I’d be off for a couple of days, then I went to the bank to deposit my newfound wealth and to buy travelers checks, reserving several hundred dollar bills for incidentals. Then I bought my ticket for California. The earliest flight available was leaving in two hours so I literally threw a few essentials into an old suitcase and left for the airport.