Monday, June 04, 2007

Old Friends

I was writing at my desk this morning with a cup of tea and looked out to see a beautiful pink sky across the street. I went out to take a picture and discovered the moon was setting between the trees. Sunset tonight looked very promising but wasn't as pretty as I expected.

I’ve been in the mood to make contact with old friends, lately. Just this morning I wrote a card to a very dear friend, Evelyn, who I met when we were 17 and freshmen at Murray State University. We were both there for the music program, which was highly renowned at the time. One of us was incredibly talented, and one of us was about to reach a humbling understanding.

In case you’re unsure which of us is which, Evelyn is a college professor with a doctorate in music and has authored many articles, when she hasn’t been busy presenting at national conferences. Prior to beginning her teaching career, she toured the world performing.

Oddly enough, another person we met that first year - my only year at Murray - recently told me that while getting her master’s in education, some of Evelyn’s writing was required reading in her course. It is, indeed a small world. One of us is in Hutchinson, one in St. Louis and one in New Orleans - all places we had no connection to when we were in college together.

Evelyn and I rarely see each other, but when we talk or email or do see each other we relate on the basis of our current lives. It was Evelyn who noted this when we spent a couple of days together a few years ago - the first time we’d seen each other since college. I was in Florida for a conference and just called her up spur of the moment because she was living there then. She came over and stayed with me and we went to dinner at the Kapok Tree restaurant in Clearwater, a local institution since closed.

Over dinner that night she told me she had been a bit hesitant to drive the two hours to where I was because she was afraid we would only be talking about our college years but that it hadn’t even come up. I had never thought about that until Evelyn mentioned it. But I have remembered that conversation many, many times since, particularly when I'm with people who live almost exclusively in the past - who's conversation centers around "remember when..."

You wouldn’t think that in our 20s Evelyn and I would have had much past. But even that night as we sat across from each other, drinking from those glasses the Kapok Tree was famous for, one of us was grieving the loss of the man we expected to be with forever to a fire, and the other was recovering from a sexual assault that had left us reeling. We had enough history to share those things and enough distance to be honest about them.

Even though our adult lives had barely begun, they were moving fast. So much had happened in the few years since college that it was already little more than a footnote. And high school seemed a lifetime ago. We had both already learned to live in the present and future because that’s where possibilities were. Even the recent past was too distant for us to relive, or to care to.

Periodically I have a need to reconnect with people, like Evelyn, with whom I've shared important things. I was there when Florida native, Evelyn, saw snow for the first time. (Her first shocked response walking out the front doors of White Hall that morning was, “It’s cold!”) She was there when I decided music just wasn’t the life for me. Those moments are all part of what make up a life. And the insight she gave me about the past versus the present was a critical thought for me to grasp.

When I consider pivotal moments in my life, that is one of them - that I am not a person who rehashes the past very much - and that I don't care for the process. I love family stories - always loved to hear my mom talk about her earlier years and enjoy it when my brothers tell me stories of their childhood. I appreciate that history shapes who we are, but life is lived in the now, and the possibilities are in the future. Maybe because I've always journaled, I feel my own life history needs no further discussion.

I have little to say about the past - mine or anyone else's. And I bore very quickly with other's stories of, "remember when..." - even if I'm in those stories. I do not want to live a life where high school shenanigans are still fresh enough and interesting enough to tell nearly thirty years later.

So, I long to connect with people like Evelyn, with whom I have a past but will always have a future. Those kinds of friends are so rare.