Friday, January 02, 2009


Once, in middle school, I went to a speech tournament with two other kids who were mildly friends of mine - Gretchen and Doug. Gretchen read the Emily Dickinson poem "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?" Her reading was oddly compelling, as though she really was like Dickinson. I was convinced utterly. And I remembered it for years.

So, I'm on Facebook. And I recently clicked on the "people you may know" application, and Gretchen showed up. I recognized the name instantly and she looked just the same as in middle school (it's uncanny how many people do) and I friended her and told her about the speech tournament. She was amazed, saying that she often recites that poem, but had totally forgotten that she'd originally memorized it for that purpose.

There are so many people I thought lost from my life forever with whom I've reconnected, at least in these shallow ways, on Facebook. I may never meet up with them again, or really have a conversation, but I know that they have a couple of young kids, or that they live in China, or that they had an excellent hot dog for lunch.

Sometimes I remember people and they don't remember me as clearly, as with Gretchen. Other times, people friend me and I barely remember their names, and I can't think of a single thing I ever knew about them. It is strange having all of these very light connections to so many people - in a way it is just like a snapshot of the tapestry of my life.

Before I left New Orleans when I was 9, I had a best friend at my school, named Burke. I've remembered her name for years and as a kid I passionately wished to know her again, but we never kept in touch. I didn't have her address or anything like that, and I'm sure I wouldn't really have written to her anyway. But the other day, I found her on Facebook. Same (unusual) name, still living in New Orleans. Unlike the middle school and high school kids, I couldn't recognize the picture, but I friended her anyway, with a message asking if she was the one I knew.

It was satisfying, but I realized I have no reason to really want to know her again. All I remember of her - and I mean all - is her name and that she had a gray jacket with a wooly white lining. I can't even say anything like "Do you remember that time we...?" because I have absolutely no memories of doing anything with her.

I had another friend, this one in high school, who came out to me as a lesbian back then and then, last I heard, was marrying a man. She just showed up on Facebook recently. She has three kids that are nearly grown, but a picture of herself with a woman who is clearly her partner, and a picture of a tattoo she has that is a rainbow with two female symbols. I guess that worked out all right.

I'm friended with my first boyfriend, Michael. He has a little boy.

I've never been to a reunion, but I guess for me Facebook is kind of like that, if you had a college and high school and junior high and current life reunion all at once, ongoing, for days and days, alongside your normal life. Some of it is meaningful and some is curiousity-satisfying and nearly all of it is nostalgic. Funny life.

1 comment:

Sally said...

I haven't actually been to one of my own reunions (though I have been to my Dad's), but Facebook seems very different from that to me, since you can choose to basically lurk and not actively engage with anyone if you don't want to. But I agree that it is interesting to be able to have a sort of shallow collection to people you used to know.