2 June 2014
Coincidence seems to be an ongoing part of life with, coincidently, lesser or greater frequency and lesser or greater improbability. One of my daughters recently moved into a new apartment in New York City that is directly across a courtyard from the building her mother and I lived in, when she was born. Not a great coincidence, but then New York’s a very large city.
For greater improbability…about 30 years ago I went to a friend’s daughter’s bat mitzvah…in Pennsylvania. At the reception I struck up a conversation with a man, who was older than I was by at least a generation and a half. He lived on Long Island and I on the other side of Long Island Sound in Westchester. He introduced himself, his name was Small. Small, I said, teetering on the far edge of recollection, my father sold his soda bottling business on Long Island to a family named Small. (When I was 10, and living on Long Island, my father and his brother owned Hampton Bottlers and their major brand was Judd’s Root Beer, by far the best root beer ever made.) Yes, he said, I am that Small. Your father was Paul and your uncle was Mark. I remember well. And Sherry Small, I asked…a girl in my class. My niece, he said. Small was a relative of my friend’s wife (the friend whose daughter was the bat mitzvah that afternoon). I could say…small world…but I’ll spare you.
Recently I toyed with the idea of going to Nepal and trekking for a few days in the direction of Mount Everest (not to it, but until it came into view). Calling it trekking takes the groan out of full-day hiking…it’s all in the presentation…and trekking makes a long hike sound palatable. In the case of Nepal, the trekking would be clambering up and down land that resembles, in the words of travel writer, Kate Simon. a tightly crumpled piece of paper. I told a friend of my trekking thought and he told me his son had done it 14 years before with a Sherpa guide. And in the wake of the recent tragedy on Everest, when a number of Sherpa were killed in an avalanche, his son, reading about it, looked at a picture accompanying the story of a surviving Sherpa…his guide 14 years before.
A daughter of mine, shortly before she was married ten years ago, was at dinner with her Mom’s family, when the conversation turned generational…specifically to a book commissioned to trace the family tree back as far as possible…the so-called Behr Book. My soon-to-be son-in-law told the gathering how odd that was, because his family…in England…had such a book as well. What’s more it was called the Behr Book. Long story short, a copy of the book was found, tracing the family back to an 18th century rabbi in eastern Europe and forward to the current generation…same family…same book. My daughter and her husband are, indeed, in it…they are fifth cousins. That, I would say, nudges the needle toward greatest improbability.