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September 29, 2010

The Bittersweetness of Childhood Reconnections

I love reading The New Yorker.

The Sept. 20th issue has a feature on Mark Zuckerberg, the guy who co-created Facebook. When I read the article I felt that the writer was really having to work hard to get Mr. Zuckerberg to give him something of real interest. The article said that Zuckerberg was a private person who didn't speak to The Press and who wasn't thrilled about the increasing number of public engagements required of him.

Can you imagine being him? He'd have to change the privacy settings just to accommodate his own need for privacy. His facebook quote says that he's "trying to make the world a more open place by helping people connect and share." And, that's why I'm even talking about this.

Come to think of it, I wasn't actually on Facebook (but LinkedIn) when I made a reconnect with a girl I knew from childhood, elementary school, birthday parties. You know, that part of our other lives that we all have but in adulthood, we can't really believe, so many years later, that we ever truly had.

If you're of a certain age, it's the one where you and I got dressed up for birthday parties, where we actually played a game called Pin the Tale on the Donkey and where my mother, (as so many mothers of that era) would wrap pennies (or was it dimes?) in Saran Wrap and put them inside the cake. I don't really recall ever getting money (or choking on money) but my memory of  my childhood has always been a bit hit and miss.

We'd play musical chairs with all manner of chairs collected from throughout the house and just as the anticipation interspersed with hesitation reached a peak, dear old mom would lift up the needle from the record player and the lap scramble would begin.

My brother and other boys would have greasy, Brylcreamed hair. I had a pink, organza party dress that was too short and I'd wear white ankle socks with pointy black patent shoes. We each had a cake because our mother, bless her, would make my brother and I each a separate cake. And, we'd sit at each end of the table, King and Queen, over our small but very special birthday party domain.

There was Phyllis and Michael and Darryl, Diane, Jo-Anne and Gary, Leo, Richard and Robin and I'm sure I'm forgetting someone.

I can recall this person, that I just connected with, as a child. I remember, vaguely, her mother, the fact that she didn't have a father around and she lived in an apartment. Her mother smoked and I liked her mother. I remember this friend's thin felt or black velvet ribbon that she often wore in her hair  and the way her thick, coarse brown hair curved around her face. I remember her smile and her teeth and her sweetness and I think she even had a dimple.

I feel the need to emphasize that unlike the pseudo preciousness of celebrity that has been touted as the "norm," none of the people I grew up with are famous, and, I have to remind myself as you should do occasionally just to to check in with reality that, NOT being famous IS actually the norm. It's easy to forget that nowadays.
Whenever I hear about people from my childhood, or my past, and undoubtedly if/when they hear about me, none of our lives have turned out to be what might have been anticipated for us when we were children. I find that so very bittersweet - for them, for their parents and for the type of hopes that may have had for our futures. Maybe it's just my very working-class background that has made that so. Maybe it's just the norm.

Perhaps that is why I've always found connecting to the past more sad than satisfying once the momentary curiosity that comes from being "updated" on the person's circumstances has passed. In a short life, it's always seemed good, to me,  to leave the past back there where it was being lived  instead of brought forward although I have had at least one or two really enjoyable times reconnecting for short periods.

Any thoughts about re-connecting with people from your past?  Sweet nostalgia? Waste of time? Major annoyance? Path to forgiveness? Reminder that you can never really go back.

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