Like many of you, I found a childhood friend on Facebook.
We were best pals in grade school, where we both wore our itchy wool plaid uniforms, stiff white blouses and knee socks. The two of us, along with a few others, formed a “Batman” TV show fan club. This involved tying our jacket sleeves just-so around our necks to double as super-hero capes. We made some type of “utility belt” out of paper and tape and staples. We often fought about who got to play Batgirl.
I have other hazy memories of those days:
- Pedaling my bike home as fast as I could to beat the buzzing, flickering street lights that awakened at dusk.
- Marveling at how her big, happy family navigated a house the same size as our family-of-four home.
- Wishing I could take her freckles, which she didn’t like. I thought freckles gave a face character and depth.
- Planning out our whole lives and how we’d play a role in each other’s futures.
Then my family moved after 6th grade.
My pal and I exchanged a few letters, called each other once in a while, then our fading friendship became lost in the fast-moving currents of life.
Earlier this year, as I was sifting through big boxes containing the relics of my life I found a packet of letters held together with a rubber band. They were from my old pal. I wondered what had become of her.
A quick search on Facebook and a mutual “friending” put us back in touch. A while afterward we agreed to meet.
As I drove to a little coffee house, I flashed back to last fall when I volunteered at a local campaign office. Turns out one of the organizers was a classmate of mine in high school. Had he not pointed it out to me, I never would have recognized him. I never would have known what happened to that well-muscled jock I rode the bus with freshman and sophomore years. While I casually flirted with him on those bumpy rides to and from school, I knew he was out of my league. Last fall, I saw the future of a teen girl’s fantasy. Often, it features a cranky, balding fat man.
Meeting up with the past is always a tricky business. Exciting. Scary. As my friend waited for me to arrive, I’m sure she probably tossed around in her head some highlights of our friendship: How I was like a monkey on crack. A skinny, wide-eyed monkey on crack who logged a lot of time in the principal’s office.
Facebook does allow some idea of how a person looks today, where she works, and how she votes or what books she reads. So a meet-up shouldn’t be a total shock. But virtual connections are not the same as sit-down chats over steaming mugs of coffee.
I stepped into the coffee house a few minutes early, hoping to at least place myself in a flattering way, armed with a cup of something caffeinated. It turns out she was even earlier. She’d already ordered her coffee and was engrossed in a book when I spotted her in the far corner. She was the same freckle-faced girl now living inside a grown woman’s body. Same smile. Same laugh. Same good humor and good nature. Whatever life had tossed her way, she’d caught it, dealt with it and kept on going.
We didn’t have too much trouble starting a conversation or keeping it going. We found that we shared similar views on a number of issues. Sure, our lives took very different paths, but not in ways so divergent that we couldn’t find common ground.
I wondered if we would have remained close friends if my family had not moved.
I wondered how different I would be today.
I wondered if she still liked Batman.