Mother went to college through the generosity of a childless uncle and his wife. Uncle’s wife shared Mother’s love of reading and later left us many boxes of books. They became the backbone of my youthful summer reading. I worked my way through Gone With The Wind, War and Peace, Anna Karenina and other thick volumes.
When Mother died, the books found a home with me. One cold, snowy day I searched the collection for something to read. I pulled out Katherine by Anya Seton and found a card inside. The book had been a new release when mother received it as a 1954 gift from Mr. Barksdale, her employer during the war years. He gave her a book every Christmas while she was his secretary and continued the habit for the rest of his life.
I settled in with the red volume and a cup of tea. The title character was a real person, Katherine de Roet, born in 1350 England. The book’s endpapers offered a family tree. Katherine’s descendants included Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Mary Queen of Scots. This lengthy, fictionalized account of Katherine’s life occupied me for many evenings.
Halfway through the book, a nagging thought began to distract me. There was something I had forgotten. I dug out the family history notebooks, stored away after several years of obsessed research. Sure enough, Katherine was Mother’s own ancestor, a fact neither she nor Mr. Barksdale ever knew.