Sometimes holiday traditions need to change and in the first Christmas without my sister, I could not put my heart into the traditions our family had cultivated over 25+ years. Instead, we headed to Disney World for some pre-Christmas fun. We’ve done that three out of the five Christmases since my sister died. One year, we skipped the Florida trek due to the wedding of our daughter’s best friend, Katharine, to Tyler. The wedding took place in St. Louis between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Our daughter was the maid of honor so we knew we couldn’t skip town, and we cobbled together our traditional Christmas as best as we could. This year, due to a number of people, places and things, we were not be able to escape to Florida.
Last week, a few days before Christmas, we offered to drive one of our offspring to the airport in St. Louis, two hours away, for a flight to visit his fiance for Christmas. When we realized his super cheap flight left at 5 a.m., we opted to go up the night before and stay in an airport hotel (thank you hotel points for the free room!). He left the room at about 3:30 for the shuttle to the airport. After a flight change in Chicago, he was in his destination before we left the hotel. His bag, however, did not make it to him until nearly midnight.
While on the drive to St. Louis, in the passenger seat, I used my phone to clean out my e-mail box. I realized that I had not touched base with the Arrow editor on my recent visit to Pi Phi HQ as I had promised her in response to an e-mail she sent me. We talked about other things, but we never discussed the topic of the e-mail, a cabinet of files from the 1990s, compiled by one of her predecessors. I had to make a quick stop at Pi Phi HQ to drop off a few things, so when I encountered my friend, the Arrow editor, I mentioned that we had forgotten to discuss the files. She took me to see them. The area where the cabinet was stored will be renovated very soon. It was imperative that something be done with the files asap. I ended up taking the files home with me to make sense of them and save what I thought needed to be in the archives.
I found a few surprises. One was a note I sent about an article I found in a Syracuse University alumni publication. It was about one of the Pi Phis, Alexia Tsairis, who died in the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy in Lockerbie, Scotland near Christmas 1988 (see http://wp.me/p20I1i-wP). I did not recognize the note paper, nor do I remember writing the note, but obviously I did.
I spied a note on a magazine page and thought to myself that it looked like my Alpha Gamma Delta friend Nann’s handwriting. And indeed it was! She sent me a page from a University of Missouri publication. The woman in the picture was wearing her Pi Phi arrow, Nann noticed and passed the article on to me. Of course, this all took place before we could have sent internet links to these articles.
The files of 1990s clippings about Pi Phi alumnae took a bit of cross-checking and googling those women who were not in the archivist’s database of notable Pi Phis. The name on one of the first newspaper clippings I came across, from a 1990s Louisiana newspaper, sounded very familiar. That’s because I researched her name a few weeks ago when the latest installment of The Hunger Games opened. Eugenie Bondurant plays Tigris in Mockingjay: Part II. She became a member of Pi Beta Phi during her undergraduate days at the University of Alabama.
The second fun find was about someone whom I knew was a Pi Phi. It was an early folder of information about Fran’s Chocolates.
In fact, chocolatier Fran Watson Bigelow is a winner of one of Pi Phi’s highest awards, the Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg Crest Award. The aforementioned Alpha Gam friend, Nann, posted on facebook a picture of a gift she received. I commented on the picture,”Fran, that Fran, is a Pi Phi,” because I knew Nann would appreciate that bit of trivia.
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