Last week, I wrote about how I’d gotten in touch with an old boyfriend (in Connection), but that was just the most recent connection with someone from my past. This year has been one in which all manner of friendships have been reestablished.
It’s not as if I’m new to the Internet; the opposite is true, as I’ve been online since the earliest years. But I still marvel at what it can do for me in terms of getting back in touch with people, as the tools for doing so improve and more people use them.
Oddly, though, some of the reconnections have happened in the most archaic fashion. My friend Larry from college called my childhood phone number, which he found through directory assistance. My father spoke with him on his quaint land line, and then gave him my number.
It was particularly nice hearing from Larry. In my freshman dorm, his room was approximately across the hall from mine, and we were like family. We visited each other’s homes during school vacations, and each of us had memorable “firsts” at the other’s place: his first subway ride, my first (and only) time skeet shooting, using a hopelessly heavy pellet gun. (I keep the empty pellet and a piece of the broken clay pigeon on my book shelf.)
But things went sour at some point, and by the time we graduated, not much of our friendship remained. (Surely this was due in large part to my misbehavior.) The last I had heard from him was when I received an invitation to his wedding a couple of years after graduation.
I was so happy when he got in touch. My youthful indiscretions had clearly been chalked up to youth, and any mistakes I made were long forgotten. Most important, we still each contained the essential piece of soul that defined us back then, but with so much more grace.
One of the really touching things about the reconnection was how I had been preserved in Larry’s memory as an energetic, optimistic 18-year-old. I told him about my son’s illnesses and their impact on my life, about my struggles with depression, about the difficulties I’ve had in my personal life. But Betsy as World-Weary Adult was an abstraction for him; Betsy the buoyant and uninhibited party girl was real. In his mind, I’m “all bouncy and vivacious.” Hearing this description didn’t make me long for those days or feel bad for how I suffered by comparison; instead it pleased me to see my faded but familiar reflection and have a moment of recognition.
I found another one of my old best friends on Facebook. She and I went to camp together for a couple of summers in the early 1970s. We kept in frequent contact during the winter months through letters, long-distance phone calls (do you remember waiting until 11 p.m. for the rate to go down to 10 cents a minute?), and an occasional visit to the other’s home a four-hour bus ride away. We last spoke in 1979, and there didn’t seem to be any more energy between us. But the connection and rapport were easy to reestablish when we talked on Facebook, and now we are planning a trip to Italy together. Amazingly, we both seem confident that we will get along.
There have been quite a few old friends I have found or who have found me, and it provides an odd sense of relief to converse or e-mail with them. What seems remarkable is that they still seem to love me. Somehow I thought I would have become unlovable, both for things I have done and for how time and life have changed me. I have always loved them; each person is like a tiny puzzle piece that’s been missing, as if my essence has been scattered across the globe. Little by little, it returns, and with each return, I feel more complete.