This is unbelievable.
I get goose bumps every time I share this amazing, highly unlikely, unexpected, and wonderfully interconnected story.
It happened few years ago. I was walking in the neighborhood where I now live in Austin Texas. I stopped to talk to one of my neighbors and she told me that a South African doctor named Michelle had moved into a house a few blocks from where I live.
A week later, during a block party, I met Michelle, a respected psychiatrist and her husband Jason who is an amazing guy and a great dermatologist.
A few minutes after being introduced to Michelle something amazing happened. It was like a stop-frame, slow-motion film of a flower blooming.
The conversation went something like this:
“Michelle. Where were you born?”
“Johannesburg,” she said. “But I left when I was three and we moved to Houston.”
“I’m from Jo’burg too,” I said. “What’s your maiden name?”
“Magid,” she said.
“When I was a kid growing up in Jo’burg over thirty years ago my doctor’s name was Magid,” I said. “Dr. Mannie Magid.”
“That’s my dad,” she said smiling.
That stopped me in my tracks. “Ummm,” I said. “Then your mom’s name is Jeanette, right?”
“Was,” said Michelle, sadly. “Unfortunately she passed away last year.”
“I’m sorry to hear,’ I said. “Ummm. You’re not going to believe this but I lived next door to your mother when I was a kid.”
“No way! You lived next door to my grandparents in Johannesburg?”
“Yup,” I said. “It was just before your mom and dad got married. Your mom was still living at home, which was right next door to my house. I was seven or eight.”
Michelle was flabbergasted.
“Your dad was my doctor until I was about twenty when you guys moved to Houston.”
What a small world. It’s amazing that Michelle and I now live a few blocks away from each other in Texas and I lived next door to her mom as a kid.
But that’s only the beginning of this unbelievable story.
Michelle invited us to dinner the following Friday night. “My dad is coming from Houston and having dinner with us,” she said. “My God, he is going to freak out when he sees you. How long has it been, like thirty years or something?”
And so we went to dinner that the following Friday night. While we were sitting around and chatting Michelle’s dad called from the road to say he’d be a few minutes late. Michelle couldn’t keep it in. She told her dad that we were there for dinner.
“He freaked out,” she said, laughing.
Michelle told us that her dad was moving from the house where she grew up in Houston. She also told us that her dad asked her if there was anything she wanted from the old house.
“There were two things I asked my dad to give me,” said Michelle. “One was a bible that had been taken from the family during the war and the second was a set of pictures that hung in my parent’s room. Those pictures hung in that room from when I was a kid until now.”
A short while later her dad arrived. He is a warm and great guy. He too has a beautiful smile. He just stood in the doorway carrying the pictures and the bible. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“My god,” he said. “Trevor Romain. What the hell happened? You got old.”
Dr. Mannie walked over to the table and put the pictures and the bible down. Big hugs and awe ensued.
Then Mannie said, “Look at this.” And he pointed to the framed pictures he had just put down on the table.
The pictures were actually four large portraits of Michelle, her mom, her brother and her sister from when Michelle was three years old.
I suddenly got goose bumps and tears started welling up in my eyes.
“Isn’t it amazing?” said Mannie, beaming.
I looked at the photographs.
I did a double take. I could not believe my eyes!
I had taken those pictures.
As an amateur, eighteen year-old photographer, I had taken and developed the portraits for the family as a farewell gift when they left South Africa over thirty years before. (Attached are the photographs of Michelle and Mannie with the picture of Michelle when she was a young girl.)
Michelle did not know who had taken them until that exact moment when Mannie smiled, and put his arm around me warmly, as we looked at the pictures.
And now the photographs are hanging in Michelle’s house just a few blocks from where I live. We have become a very close, loving family, so near, but yet so far away from where it all started.