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The paths not taken

standard June 30, 2010 5 responses

A Facebook update pops up. It’s by an old friend, an elementary school friend. He’s going on a kid free vacation with his wife and he’s delirious at the prospect of a few days alone with the woman he loves.

An old high school friend pings me over IM. He’s a zillion miles from where any of us ever expected him to be, doing relief work in a war zone. His joy and excitement comes through, even in the short choppy computer messages.

A close friend emails. She’s pregnant again. I’ve never met any of her children, but I’ve been with her every step of every pregnancy – those that ended well and those that didn’t. Her email bubbles with excitement, but I can detect the undertone of apprehension.

There might have been a time when I would have felt a stab of jealousy at witnessing their joy. One is living the adventurous life I always dreamed of, one is having the third child I croon to in my sleep, and the third, well. it’s not impossible that when we were kids I might have day dreamed of one day being his wife.

There was a time – not all at once – when these three people filled my days. Each at one point or another has been one of my closest friends. We parted ways – physically – for various reasons and I’m sad that they are no longer people I can hug at will. But knowing that our separate roads have taken us to respective happy places makes up for the “what ifs?” I sometimes experience.

What if he hadn’t left? What if we hadn’t met? What if I had not chosen the path that lead to California?

There is no “right” path. There are just paths you chose to take along the way. Each one leads somewhere different and you can’t take them all. It’s just nice when you glimpse the paths you didn’t take and you see they turned out beautiful too.

Parties in the past

standard November 5, 2009 5 responses

My grandmother had a home in the town of Briare, France, about an hour south of Paris. She didn’t actually live there though, the house sat empty, waiting for whatever family member wanted to escape Paris for a weekend in the country.

Briare Canal image

Often that family member was me, usually accompanied by some of my closest friends.

Man did we have some rocking parties at that house.

The checkered living room tiles just begged to be turned into a dance floor. And the many bedrooms were the perfect place for everyone to pitch a sleeping bag for when we were finally too tired to party.

It never occurred to me to marvel that so many of my friends would drive an hour out of the city to join me for a party in a truly rural town. People in France just don’t drive places. Going an hour out of town is not something people do unless they’re heading out for a week long vacation. But they were my friends. And they came.

I loved those weekends away. I loved the casual camaraderie of it all. Friends clustered in the kitchen. Everyone pitching in to prepare the party that they’d all be attending. We would all spend the afternoon decorating, cooking, and clearing furniture. Then we’d head to the bedrooms and bathroom to get ready for the party. Sometimes extra people came for the actual event, but for the most part it was all the same people, from sun up to sun down.

These people were my friends, my chosen family.

Ten years later I can’t remember if we were already starting to lose touch before I left France or if my departure marked the beginning of the end. I just remember how I was affected by that summer in New York. I broke up with my boyfriend by phone, met M, and in a heartbeat decided that I wasn’t going home. I never stopped to think about the friends I’d be leaving behind or how my departure would affect them. I guess that I assumed they’d just go on being friends without me, that I would step out of the circle and that the circle would tighten to fill the void. Then I got caught up with life in another country and, even though I missed them all terribly, I didn’t worry about them.

Over the last year I’ve reconnected with many of those old friends, primarily thanks to Facebook, though it kills me to admit it. This morning, one of them sent me a link to some pictures from the last of those infamous parties. Instead of packing up my computer and taking my children to daycare I found myself dragged back to 1999. For a moment I was single and childless and utterly silly and carefree again. There was no work, no worries, no bills, no taxes, no children who needed me to brush their hair and find their shoes. There were just great friends and endless time to hang out and just be together.

The caption under one photo grabbed my heart and twisted. “I never found another friend like you.”

I’ve been busy creating a life for myself these last ten years. A life filled with great friends and an incredible family. I’ve grown up, become who I was meant to be. But it’s true for me too. I never found other friends like them.

Thank you to my old friend Cecile for the photos. I’m very grateful she found them and took the time to scan them.

I really really want to hate FaceBook, but I just can’t

standard January 14, 2009 5 responses

I have an odd Facebook resistance. First I want so badly to hate them and shun them for the whole Facebook Sucks – anti-breastfeeding saga. Then I just want to shun them because… because… well, I really don’t know why. It’s especially odd since I’m usually always ready to jump onto any passing social media bandwagon.

First there’s my whole issue with the extra stuff that goes on there. Are we really saving the earth with cute little “green plants,” or are we just wasting each other’s time? Do I really need to see if I’m related to the whole world? And why can’t I just play games on Yahoo! like I always have?

Second there’s the whole email thing. I used to get forwards that I could delete in 0.3 seconds. Now I get Facebook messages that take 5 minutes to open before they can be deleted. Granted, I’ve been told that I can change those email settings, but until recently if I hadn’t gotten those regular emails I would never have checked my Facebook account.

Yes. Yes. You read that correctly. I said until recently. Because, bah, I’ve gotten sucked in. I couldn’t help it! The pull was too strong. Not the pull of the friends I already know and love. Nah, I’m probably already chatting those people up on Twitter or IM. You know the pull I mean. The “eh, I wonder what that person has been up to these last couple years…” pull.

I’m placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of one of the friends who came to visit this summer. We were sitting there talking about people we remembered from high school, and he said that so and so was on Facebook, and so we looked her up and that lead to looking up a host of other people, and, and, and well, there’s really no excuse for the extremes I took it to. Seriously, I looked up, and friended(!) my first crush, from when I was 11. Who does that? (Also, while we’re at it, when did Friend become an acceptable verb?)

Even so I was still feeling conflicted about the whole thing. I’d still rather spend my time reading blogs or Twittering than bouncing around from Facebook profile to Facebook profile. It’s bizarre, but I feel more like a stalker on Facebook than I ever do reading people’s most intimate thoughts on their blogs. But, today I’m conceding that Facebook does have it’s great upside. Today one of my oldest friends reached out through time, space, and my sister’s Facebook account to say hi and I almost cried. (My account is under my married name, my sister still has my maiden name.)

I can still remember seeing her bike away 22 years ago as our station wagon pulled out of our Rye, NY driveway for the last time. Tears streamed down my face as I waved goodbye to her, my bestest friend ever. We were heading to the airport, leaving the country forever. We moved to London, England, then Paris, France. Shortly after our tearful goodbyes her family left the U.S. to move back to Australia and we lost touch. We were 10, there was no email, it was all too easy to forget to write.

I’ve often looked at her picture in my photo album and wondered what happened to her and now I know. She’s hanging out somewhere in Australia looking up old friends on Facebook. And I, for one, am tearfully grateful for this not so little website that’s allowing me to find my long lost friends again (Yes, even the ones I should probably leave lost in the sands of time, like say, best forgotten crushes.) and I won’t be dissing them any more.

Original It’s my life… post.

When it rains it floods down here on memory lane

standard October 24, 2008 3 responses

I just spent a week catching up with my best friend from middle school. Oh, he might not know he was my best friend, but he very much was.

While he was here I took a little spin on the Facebook search page and did something I’d never once had the urge to do before. I checked out all the people we’d known in school. Is that odd, that I never once looked them up? Is it even weirder that before he showed up on my doorstop I’d forgotten most of their names?

There are three people I remember clearly from those not so pleasant days. One I’ve been in touch with regularly since she left. One I’ve been in touch sporadically over the years. And one I lost touch with the day High School ended.

The others are for the most part forgotten. Willfully? Accidentally? Does it matter? They are a haze in a haze.

I scrolled through the list of their contacts and names jumped out at me, grabbing me, forcing me to stare unwanted memories in the face. I reluctantly clicked on one or two names, wondering what they were up to these days. I hastily clicked away from people upon learning that they lived here, right here, in the Bay Area, a million miles away from home. Now I glance around me in the street wondering if they are somewhere near. Wondering if they’ve changed any. Wondering if I care.

While I was torturing myself I pushed a little further and checked on my first boyfriend. (I’d write first love, because it was true, but I hate to attribute such power to such a lowlife.) Word of advice – Don’t do that. Ever. Nothing good comes of it. Trust me. If he’s hot now, who cares? And if he’s as unattractive it doesn’t change anything either. Just one more picture to haunt you at night.

And then, because clearly I wasn’t tormented enough, I picked at my favorite scab. The friend who vanished the day after High School? Could I find her? Was she lurking in the hidden pages of Facebook?

I tried to find her for years. I knew her alma mater and found her email. I agonized over an email for months and when I finally sent it it boomeranged back “address unknown.” I filed it as a lost cause and tried to move on. But losing a friend hurts, and losing a best friend hurts more, especially if you never knew what you did to cause the rift.

Hindsight might be 20/20, but I’m no Sherlock Holmes and I’m missing too many clues to truly know where I went wrong. Today I can only assume that the lowlife boyfriend was the cause, but again, that might be granting him too much power.

I didn’t find her on Facebook. I found her on LinkedIn. And I emailed her, not the agonised missive about lost friendship, just a quick “You live here! In my backyard! Minutes away from where I life. Wow. Can we talk?”

Today she wrote back. Like a hand reaching through time. She sent a picture and her familiar face smiled at me through the screen. I looked at her and thought “I’ve missed you so much. I’m so sorry I screwed up. Can we please be friends again?” The apology is 15 years late. I still don’t know what I did. But I am grateful for the chance to try again.