I told her that it wasn't just my permission she needed but also my father's. I threw in my sister's, too, and my father's cousin Julian's, a lawyer, knowing not one of us would give this cockamamie plan a green light.
She said, "Let me remind you: I rescued this from the rubbish heap. But I'm all about collaboration. Sure, ask your relatives how they'd feel about an award-winning filmmaker putting Pinkerton High School on the map."
"Pickering. If . . . just 'if' this went forward, and you found some of the graduates, would they see what my mother wrote about them? Because she'd turn over in her grave."
Her expression said it all: 'What a wonderful idea! Hadn't thought of that but wow! Just the tension this project was missing!'
A threat of last resort: "If I told the building super that you picked through everyone's garbage, word would get around."
"Why? Because it's disgusting! People throw away personal stuff. They declutter!"
"And you know what I'd say to that? 'I'm a documentary filmmaker, which makes me a researcher, even a scavenger. More power to me.'"
I asked what these award-winning documentaries were.
"Too many to name."
"Any one I might have seen?"
"Most recently: on TV, last Passover."
"Passover?" I repeated.
"On the Jewish Channel."
I said I had basic cable, which didn't include the Jewish Channel. What was the film about?
"The last matzo factory in Brooklyn." She handed me her empty glass. "I thought you'd be thrilled. The documentary-watching world will get to know a woman who otherwise lived in near obscurity. I'm hoping to find archival footage of her—the teacher all the boys and probably half the girls were in love with! No wonder she kept going to reunions!"
What to digest first—that this woman was going to make a movie about a New Hampshire yearbook? Or that my mother was a sex object?
I said, "I never got the idea from her notes that anything like that was going on."
"Don't get huffy. Of course you wouldn't see that. She's your mother."
I asked if she'd forgotten that New Hampshire was the center of the universe every four years, with reporters flocking there for the presidential primary. Granite Staters are always being filmed. It's ho-hum. Good luck finding people who aren't sick of having a microphone stuck in their faces.
When this seemed to have the desired dampening effect, I added, "Maybe you'll need to find a yearbook from a state that gets less attention."
From a pocket within the folds of her voluminous dress, she produced a phone. I could tell without a view of the screen that she was Googling something.
"I'll admit," she finally said, "that I wasn't factoring in the primary, but it could be just the thing that could get me the money I need."
Money? I told her I didn't follow.
"New Hampshire is one of the original thirteen colonies," she announced.
Was she thinking she'd find yearbooks from the other twelve colonies? "Do you mean a yearbook series?"
"No! I was just thinking grants: Frontline. The National Endowment for the Arts. Daughters of the American Revolution. Kickstarter. Dartmouth."
"New Hampshire, right? I'd release it in an off year just as residents were missing all the attention."
She rose, nodded grandly, turned at the door, and said, "We both know your mother would be all for it."
What kind of bargaining chip did I have? Geneva had the yearbook in her possession. And I, who didn't believe in visitations from the other side, found myself wondering whether this was exactly what my mother would have wanted.