Sunday, March 20, 2011

Memory Lane

Despite the ease of reconnecting with everyone you have ever met through social networking sites like Facebook, every so often someone from my past re-enters my life for just a little while. Sometimes it's a former colleague I see at the grocery store. Sometimes it's my child's caregiver from long ago. Sometimes it's even an old boyfriend. The "meet and greets" do not last but they happen long enough for me to think back on the person, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few days. I recall the conversations we had, the times we spent together, the people we were back then.

When I ran into an old colleague of mine at the grocery store a few years back, he asked me if I was still teaching. When I said yes, he seemed almost disappointed. He'd left teaching after burning out; at least, that is my understanding of what happened. He had been an incredible source of support for me and I had learned a great deal from him, about teaching, about teens, about life, about myself. I remember crying so hard when he told me he was leaving. I think I was in my late 20s at the time. I swear the 20s are the strangest years--fuller with anxiety than the teens years, at least it seemed that way to me. In any case, I did not know how I was going to go on without him there. I'm a little embarrassed over how hard I took the news back then. I think of all the people who have left my school since then and I realize, he was just one of many people that shaped me as an educator. I think back on our many discussions when he was a colleague of mine and I realize his influence on me was significant yet it had run its course. I grew stronger after he left, personally and professionally. Still, I sometimes wish he could see me now. I think he'd be proud of me.

Occasionally in the years since my daughters left their care, I'd run into two dear people who for a number of years cared for my girls. An elderly couple, they have since moved into senior housing in another town and thus, I see them rarely. But every once in awhile I see Bob. Our eyes brighten when we spot one another, he tells me about how his wife is doing, and he never fails to ask about my family. I miss our conversations about the children, about their grandchildren, and about their time together but the influence he and his wife had on our family will never truly fade away. They both made imprints on our hearts that will forever stay.

A couple of years ago I received a surprise email from an old boyfriend. He wrote to wish me a happy birthday. We exchanged only a few emails afterward, enough to catch up on one another's families. But the emails made me think back to our friendship and flirtation when we were young teens. I smile at the memories and I also think of how very much we've each experienced since then and how much we've grown in our separate lives. The thirteen year old girl never could have imagined the idea of typing a note on a computer that with the simple hit of a button could reach a "first love" nearly 30 years later. And although it would be easy to keep in touch nowadays through social networking, sometimes when it comes to old flirtations, well, that's not meant to be.

Whether it's an old colleague, a treasured caregiver, or a first boyfriend, I've learned over the years that "To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." Still, I'll continue to look for a few more surprise meetings from people in my past. After all, when the past pays me a visit in the present, there's always something valuable to learn for the future.

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