When I started this job, there were many things I saw coming: I expected to get to know Richmond well, eat a lot of food, work on my writing and photography, learn a great deal about Asian cuisine, and that it would be exhausting and rewarding.  These things have all proven true, but what I didn’t expect is that it would reconnect me with a family member I’ve never met.

A few weeks ago, after an interview I did with the Vancouver Sun was published, I received an email from a woman named Linda Baker.  She’s a second cousin of my father’s, which makes her some sort of cousin to me, though I’m not willing to give myself a headache figuring it out.  She saw the article but didn’t recognize me at first, since she’s only ever seen photos of me as a child.  Then she came across my parents’ uncommon names, Brock and Ina, and discovered she was reading about a cousin.  She wrote to me, said she had a lot of family history she’d like to share, and we arranged to get together. Yesterday we met at Bean and Beyond Cafe in Steveston, and started catching up.  There was a lot to tell.

First though, let’s talk about lunch.

Bean and Beyond is directly across from Rocanini on No. 1 Road, though it’s a bit hidden.  The awning is shaded by two trees and the sign is easy to miss, but it’s a good place to get a casual lunch, coffee and a treat.

Linda and I both had the soup ($3.75, yesterday’s was chicken orzo), which had nice chunks of chicken and vegetables, but wasn’t salted enough for me.  I like a much stronger broth, though I suppose it’s good if you’re trying to cut back on sodium!

I also had a tomato, roasted red pepper, spinach, and feta panini on whole wheat focaccia ($6.95), which came with a small side salad.  It was good, with a generous amount of fillings, and I’d order it again.

They also offer a number of other paninis (some with meat), tasty looking quiches, made-to-order breakfast options, and plenty of sweets.  Linda and I tried the peanut butter chocolate square ($2.75, delish!) and an oatmeal cookie ($1.75), which was thick and chewy.

Has anyone had the breakfast there?  It seems like it would be a good option if you need a quick but wholesome meal before whale watching or a day of touring through the village.

Second, let’s talk about the beauty of old images.  I’m quite enamoured with both photography and family history, so it was thrilling to look through the scanned photographs Linda’s collected and digitized.

Linda’s Grandmother, my Great Aunty Rae, was the eldest of five daughters.  The second youngest of those sisters, Maquinna, was my Dad’s mom, who died when he was just a boy.  Though she was named for the ship her father was building at the time, the five brother-less sisters were given boy nicknames, so Maquinna was known as “Tim.”  These names stuck, which meant I grew up with a Great Aunty Bob and never once thought that odd.

While looking through the photographs with Linda, I learned a great deal, and one of my favourite stories was this: each summer my Great grandparents moved their family to a campsite on the water, where they’d setup a tent called the “Dookum Inn” and live for several months.

The five girls played there all summer, with their father leaving each day by bicycle to his job at the shipyard.

I discovered I have two great great uncles who died in World War One, one of whom is buried in northwest France.

I loved hearing again that Tim, my grandmother, was tall and had a big smile.  Many people say I look like her, and I’m glad about that.

She drove trucks for the air force during WWII, and was a renowned pianist.  I can drive a truck just fine, but the musical gene didn’t transfer down, unfortunately.

Talking with Linda reminded me of just how much I love hearing stories, whether they’re about my own family or others.  When my dad and I took a guided tour at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery, for example, our guide spoke of her family’s life as First Nations fishers on the west coast, and I could have listened all day.  My family has no direct connection to Richmond, and yet this job has brought me closer to the very people from which I came.  That includes The Ettrick Shepherd, Linda Baker, and those five Daniels daughters!  I think that’s pretty remarkable.

Here’s a suggestion: if your grandparents are still around, speak with them.  Ask them about their lives, and I bet you’ll be blown away by the stories they have to tell.  Full-fledged genealogical adventuring isn’t necessary to hear a good tale, so ask!  Or tell, if you’re a grandparent yourself.  Perhaps over a panini?

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