AN UNUSUAL TRAVELER FINDS HOME
One morning, I began cleaning out the pockets of my dad’s old hunting jacket when I made a discovery that set me back and made me say, “What? How…?” The discovery was a simple book of matches. I could tell its story myself, but I think at least a part of the story is best told by the matches.
I’m a book of matches. I was one of those free giveaways, along with pens, at the Etherton Oil Company in Marion, Illinois, back in the 1970s. One day, a man named Jim Peacock came into the shop to buy something, and he picked me up. I hated to leave the counter at Etherton Oil, but I knew I had an important job to do.
Jim Peacock took me to his house and used a couple of my matches, and then I sat in his coat pocket for a long time! It would have been very boring in there except I shared the space with some shotgun shells. The coat was stored somewhere and forgotten for almost 40 years!
But eventually, Jim Peacock gave a box of clothes that included the coat to his grandson, David Schrock, who took the box to Columbus, Ohio, and stored it there for a while. Then, when the box was finally opened, I learned that I was in Sandia Park, New Mexico! That’s near Albuquerque. David and his family had moved me across the country 1500 miles! I’m glad the movers didn’t find me in the jacket, or they would not have moved me.
When David unpacked the box, he decided he didn’t want the old jacket anymore, so he gave it to his mother, Nancy Schrock (Jim Peacock’s daughter), who also now lives near Albuquerque. She planned to throw the jacket away but needed to take out the shotgun shells first.
Finally, one Sunday morning I saw the light of day again. She cleaned out the pockets of Jim Peacock’s hunting jacket and put the shotgun shells in a box. Whew! After 40 years, I wasn’t sorry to be away from those guys. When she came to me, she almost threw me away, but decided not to throw matches in the trash, and she hesitated long enough to read the label: Etherton Oil Co., Complete Auto and Industrial Lubricants, N. Fair Street, Marion, Illinois.
She was so surprised to see me because her friend, Susan Etherton Quintana is the daughter of my old owner, Charles Etherton, and Susan also lives in Albuquerque!!! Nancy and Susan had been classmates in high school, but they didn’t know each other then. Lately, they have become friends since Nancy’s move to Albuquerque about a year ago. Nancy texted Susan, who got excited and asked if she could give me a home. SO, I am now with my old friends again, the Etherton Oil pens! I’m the only Etherton Oil book of matches that Susan has, which makes me a special keepsake of her father’s business. Finally, after over 40 years and 1500 miles, I’ve found my family again.
My father is still living, and I asked him about Etherton Oil. He said that he did go in there at least once a year to get a seasonal item, but he couldn’t remember what it was. Charles Etherton sold the business in 1978, which dates the matches to around that time or earlier. If my son, David, had found the matches, he would not have known about the connection to my high school classmate. I agreed to take the jacket to possibly salvage something for my dad and then dispose of it. If I had cleaned the jacket out more than a year before this happened, I would have thrown the matches away, not knowing that Susan’s dad had owned Etherton Oil because we only recently connected after my move to Albuquerque. What are the odds of those matches finding their original owner’s daughter after all these years?! Highly unlikely, yet meaningful occurrences like this one assure me that the events in our lives are not random. I think that Susan was meant to receive from her dad a memento that had traveled across time and space.