3+ME: Forget your purse, find yourself in the 1930s

Sometimes unexpected annoyances lead to awesome experiences

Don’t leave your wallet at the office.

It’s a good rule of thumb, ya know?

But I did. On a Friday, no less, so I wouldn’t even be back to pick it up til Monday.

(Good job, self.)

Under normal circumstances, I might not have minded driving back to pick it up — except this wasn’t my average weekend. My mom was in town for a girls’ day with me and my stepdaughter, and I didn’t want to ditch them both to rectify my irresponsibility.

“We can come with you,” my mom suggested. “Let’s make a trip of it!” Might as well make the best of it, right?

When we told my stepdaughter, she was surprisingly excited.

“While we’re there, we can show Nana the fourth floor!” she said.

Yes, that’s the newspaper’s archives, and I’ve always thought it was a cool place. It isn’t open to the public, but I’ve shown it to my stepkids when they’ve visited in the past, and they both loved it.

Making the most of an accidental situation ended in a unique discovery.

Now my stepdaughter wanted to share the excitement, and I felt better about going to pick up my purse.

The trouble was, the outing was going to take time away from my bigger concern — my stepdaughter’s research project. She’s been working on a school presentation on Amelia Earhart for weeks now, and it had a few things still needing work before the weekend was over.

This trip would eat into that time.

But I really did need my purse. Again, might as well make the best of it.

When the three of us arrived in the newsroom, my stepdaughter noticed some old-looking drawers along the wall to my desk. “What are those?” she asked.

“Old files,” I said, pointing to the labels next to each handle. “See? This drawer has articles of things beginning with ‘A.'”

“Ya know,” chimed in Kevin O’Connor, the reporter on shift that day, “I’ve heard you’re doing a project on Amelia Earhart.” (I may have mentioned the project a time or two … or 20 … during work.) “I bet you could find something about her in our archives.”

My stepdaughter’s eyes widened, and so did mine.

“That’s a brilliant idea, Kevin!” I exclaimed.

First, we looked in the drawers near my desk. And lo and behold, there, tucked in neatly between “Eardley, Dr. Daniel P,” and “Earle, Milton E.,” was “Earhart, Amelia.”

We squealed with excitement. (Well, I did, and my mom almost did. My stepdaughter was excited, but not to the level of squealing.)

The file revealed a few articles about a woman in the 1970s who’d claimed to be Amelia. But that wasn’t the important stuff, the stuff that made history.

For that stuff, we headed to the fourth floor — the archives my stepdaughter had wanted to show Nana.

There, we found shelves stacked with giant tomes of bound newspaper copies, dating back decades.

1937. We found it. And we started leafing through the pages for July 3, hoping we could find a small mention of Amelia disappearing over the Pacific in her flight around the world.

We didn’t find a small mention.

We found a really, really big one.

The main headline, in huge bold letters, declared “Distress calls from plane grow faint as navy ships seek Amelia.”

More squealing ensued.

“Let’s find another one!” my stepdaughter declared.

And we did.

1928. “American girl successful in transatlantic flight.”

1932. “Amelia Putnam lands safely in Ireland.”

1935. “Amelia Earhart races storm over sea.”

All front page stories. All in big, bold letters. All things my stepdaughter had read about in her history books.

It was mind-blowing (or maybe it’s just me), seeing the actual news pages, from our own newspaper, from back when these historic moments occurred.

We felt like time travelers, and it gave my stepdaughter a whole new view on this project of hers. If it were up to her, we would have kept looking for more dates, but we did in fact have other places to be.

When you make the most of a situation you didn’t expect to find yourself in (like someone leaving their purse at their office several towns away), sometimes you trip into awesome experiences you never would have found otherwise.

As we headed back down to ground level and the year 2019, we marveled at how things turn out sometimes.

And this time, I had my purse.

Originally published in The Herald News on May 5, 2019.

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