All Inclusive Richmond

Jim Gaffigan, you know me so well, but I kinda like blogging.

I’m going through a more stressful semester over here, but I’m part superhuman so I just keep powering through my days/homework, with another cup of coffee or two (or three). What’s really kicking my butt this semester is my UNIV 200 class, a research and writing university class. Each student writes a 8-10 page paper on a topic of their choice, so I was like hm cupcakes aren’t going to be a good topic let’s go with the historic Fan District of Richmond.

After picking my topic, I hopped up and crossed Floyd Avenue to get to my beloved history department to talk to the department head. A good family friend of ours, John excitedly sat down with me and discussed my topic with me, pulled a couple of books out of his extensive collection, then asked me who my professor is. When I answered him “Mary Shelden”, John smile at me, “Mary is a good friend of mine!” then told me of how she convinced him to read Little Women, spending his summer with his nose in that classic at Granite Pool. I can’t believe the serendipity of spending summers at Granite with my department chair before university, then learning he’s good friends with one of my favorite professors.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, where I am up to my neck in research, articles, and books. While in between Times-Dispatch articles on historic preservation, I noticed the name Jennie Dotts, a vanguard in this movement in Richmond, appear a couple of times. Oh this lady sounds important let me Google her. Reading a little bit more, two links connect in my brain: Daddy had twin friends named Jean and Jeannette…one of them married Walter Dotts. Jeannette Dotts. Jennie Dotts. I clicked the next article I could find, which confirmed that Jennie Dotts was the same Jeannette of Jean and Jeannette, who played around with Daddy during his Saint Bridget days. (My favorite story is when the bus driver asked him to get the girls out of their house before school one day. The maid asked him if he wanted pancakes, so he sat and ate breakfast while the girls snuck out the other door, on the bus and to school.) I emailed Jennie, and I’m so excited that announce that I’ll be getting coffee with her soon.

With a population of over 1.2 billion, the greater Richmond area may seem huge, but it’s really not. I feel I can’t take three steps without randomly running into someone I know, someone my mother knows, but mostly someone that knew my father. I found out today my Italian professor’s children went to Saint Edward’s with me. She brought in their old yearbook and showed me her children’s and my pictures. Let’s add that she taught my cousin a couple of years ago too. It’s not just me either. James’s English teacher at TJ is the daughter of our fourth grade teacher at Saint Edward’s and the sister of one of my SEES classmates.

A lot of this close networking in Richmond is connected to being a second generation Richmond Catholic school family, and I still meet random people who burst off into “I knew your uncle from Benedictine!” and “Your grandma taught my sister!”, and you know I wouldn’t trade this love from  Richmond for a damn thing. When my father died, I felt like the whole city put their arms around us. Strangers went up and hugged us, we got cards and notes from people I didn’t even know. But there’s the thing-given some time, we’ll stumble upon that person, and we’ll discover each other, and I’ll add someone else in my network.

So try telling me that Richmond is too big, and I’ll stop you dead in the tracks. There’s just enough people so that I see new customers at work everyday, but it’s small enough that I can hand over medicine to one of my beloved customers from Sweet Frog at Buford Road. What’s the title of this post again? “All Inclusive Richmond”? Yes, Richmond is perfect. It’s not just a great diversity city, but it’s a perfect homey, tight-knit yet everyone has enough elbow space. *wipes tear away thinking all the amazing souls who’ve blessed my family and me since the 1960’s*

Alright Jim, blogging’s over (and so is your nap). I’m going to go write up some questions for Jennie. And reader, I just want you to know that you’re beautiful and I’m glad we have this connection.

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