Friday, September 19, 2008

The Way We Were

A while back, I posted about the sense of loss I felt about being so geographically distant from the places I grew up. My Memphis friends rarely see a week go by that they don’t run into an old teacher or fellow Girl Scout or the stoner-turned-Republican from high school. Being a creature of habit and a fan of familiarity, moving as often as I have in my life has been very disruptive in frequent short-term ways, but it’s also created a long-term chasm between my past and present.

And then I found the wormhole through that chasm: Facebook. I knew it was for me the minute I saw it. A social utility? There is not a tool I need more!

I quickly connected with all my local friends, and then plundered the rolls of my high school and college classes. At that point, my Facebook friend list looked pretty much like my current email address book. But then I got to wondering … what would happen if I entered the graduating classes of the schools I would have attended if the twists of my father’s career path hadn’t dragged us across the Midwest and back?

With just a little bit of fibbing, I slid into the virtual hallways of my Michigan non-alma-mater, the high school I’d have eventually reached if I’d stayed in the nascent freaky-gifted program I was in during our one year in the wilds of Plymouth, MI. Thanks to the fact that I still have that class’s attendance roll memorized, I was able to spot the few other survivors; they even had a reunion page running. I also located my former next-door neighbor, a close friend during that year who completely vanished from my radar after I made my first solo plane trip to visit her the summer after 4th grade.

And then I cranked the Way Back Machine all the way to my educational beginnings. I hypothetically joined the graduating class of our Pittsburgh school district, where I lived between the ages of 3-to-8-years-old. I scrolled through a few pages before seeing any familiar names and had almost given up when I stumbled across a former neighbor and frequent playmate. When she responded to my friend request (which included a note in case she didn’t recall the sturdy little blonde girl who moved out of the neighborhood in 1985), she said that whenever she busted out the Strawberry Shortcake dolls with her daughters, it reminded her of playing at my house. I’m still awaiting confirmation from someone who I’m 90% sure was one of my closest childhood friends, which would officially make her my first Facebook classmate ever: we went to pre-school together.

Unlike MySpace, all of the personal pages on Facebook are private by default, so you can’t see anyone’s current information (other than name, possibly location, and sometimes a tiny picture) unless you knock on their virtual door and ask them to let you in. I guess this is where the social part comes in, and it’s the part that’s the most stressful for me. I know exactly whose friendship I requested, and I have a mental list of the people who chose not to offer it. In that way, it’s a little more like high school (and junior high) than I’d like. But for the most part, people are welcoming and friendly and indulgent of my nostalgic basking. It’s not quite the same as running across your old Mathlete teammate at Target, but at least I don’t have to worry about how my hair looks.


Sassy Molassy said...

That's so nice that you can finally be reunited with your real people.

Unknown said...

Facebook and MySpace have been lifesavers for me. Like you I am completely detached from the locations and people that ultimately led to making me me. Maine, Boston, L.A. This keeps me in such better contact than I would otherwise keep up. I'm a horrible caller. I'm almost as bad keeping up via email. This is perfect. I don't even need to have things of import to say to somebody to keep in touch. No sitting around composing heavy emails. I can just say, "Hey, when did you visit the World's Largest ball of Twine," or "Hey, you look good in that bikini," or I can not-so-subtly invite people to engage me with a simple yet passive agressive status update. I love social networks and a pox on anyone who wants to judge me for that.