Sometimes I feel like I live in Mayberry. I went to school with the same kids grades 1-12. The same kids at church. The same neighbors. One of my childhood pals even went to college with me. I say “Hi” to someone I know most times I’m in downtown Willoughby. They will obligingly give me the latest on everyone I’ve ever known. I swear I don’t do anything interesting enough for people to gossip about, yet they know what I’ve been up to lately, including medical, dating, and job status. Sometimes I feel like screaming, but I guess I’m a cog in the whole pattern. Mom told me about Dave, and I told her about running into him at Kleifelds Restaurant. Aaaargggh! I’m part of the gossip stream. Nooooooo!!!! I’m sorry Dave.
Sometimes it feels like no one ever moves away. If my nephew mentions a pal, I recognize the last name and ask if that guy is So-and-so’s son. Of course he is. Then I can’t resist laughing about what So-and-so did at a party or something. Then I hear about what So-and-so’s son did at a party. I’ll probably repeat this at Kleifelds and hate myself for it. Though just to be clear, I don’t divulge real secrets. Passing on information about births and deaths or somebody’s latest drunk and disorderly arrest isn’t the same thing as airing someone’s private pathos. I’ll take quite a few private confidences to the grave.
Living near where I grew up gives me a sense of belonging to a larger family of often embarrassing relatives, but some people have disappeared and scattered like feathers in the wind. Of course, occasional updates of escapees will crop up. This guy is studying rocks in the desert. These two married and have an overachieving child or maybe a disabled kid. There’s a constant stream of gossip flowing through our collective unconscious.
In the olden days, my girlfriend from grades 1-12 would’ve lived her entire life in the same village. I would’ve gone to her wedding, seen her children and grandchildren grow up, watched her hair turn white, and eventually would’ve gotten buried in the same graveyard. In the real world, I lost track of her after graduation. I called, nervous about how she would remember me when my teenaged self-perception is full of self-recriminations. She was my “good” friend, the friend who stopped my bad behavior with a glance of blue eyes. In fact, I found myself sitting up rather pertly as I tapped her number into my phone. While she is still the “good” girl, within seconds the years fell away. We fast forwarded through the decades and laughed and commiserated about the turns our lives have taken. We learned the secrets of each other’s childhoods which we had both suspected but never discussed when we were actually living them. My heart filled with happiness connecting with her again.
This web of connections is visible when I look at Facebook and LinkedIn. Young faces cascade through my mind in a vivid waterfall. I feel joy when I find an old friend from public school, or college, or an old job. I loved these people, and they took part of my heart when they disappeared across the country or across the world. Collecting them lets me collect parts of myself and to give back parts of them too. It’s too easy to lose ourselves in the process of living and paying bills, and we often don’t see what we’ve lost, or recognize where we should look for those aspects of ourselves.
Finding old friends is a chance to say “You matter to me, and I’ve wished you well through the years.” As we age, we collect our scars and disappointments and lose sight of the fact that our lives have an impact on people we seldom think about any more. Some people I’ve known are doing terrific things. I smile at their postings on Facebook and feel hope for the world.
eeee GIVEAWAY! eeee
In this attitude of gratitude, I’m going to offer my first giveaway to celebrate my upcoming 100th post. Woo hoo!! Just 2 more to go! I really appreciate all of you who stop by to see my posts. All you have to do to be in the drawing is leave a comment in the next two weeks and become a follower. (Thanks to all of you who are already following!) The prize will be a set of 4 cards with original watercolors (6 7/8" x 5"), which are shown in this post.