In 2000 Tim returned from seven months in Africa and one month after that a crate arrived via cargo ship full of sculptures, paintings, carvings, and trinkets collected from across the continent.
We did not know each other.
Two years later we met (at a bar, of all places). Two years after that we were married. And five years after that our first child was born. Then another. And another.
Last night, as the five of us collected in the kids room for post bath, pre-bed play and reading, Tim noticed something. A tinga tinga painting which had made that long journey across the Atlantic from Africa to New York had three giraffes.
Also pictured were thirteen birds. He started counting with his fingers as he said “E-L-E-A-N-O-R-L-I-N-D-E-N…..O-L-I-V-E-R…”
The first and middle names for Eleanor, Oliver, and Alice, all have thirteen letters.
It’s hard not to believe that something much larger than himself influenced the purchase of that painting; that he hadn’t made some decision long ago about a future life he wanted to live. Or maybe it was the other way around – that picture, which for years hung in the hallway we passed by several times each day – had seeped into our subconscious and influenced us. But then Tim remembered that he’s a scientist and doesn’t believe in “that stuff.”
Still, he sat there awhile longer staring. And thinking. But what if…?