Old Friends

I’ve been keeping a longhand, personal journal since February 17, 1989. I was 16 when I started writing down my daily insights, insecurities, and idiosyncrasies. I carried it to and from class every day. I spilled drinks on it and wrote in it when class bored me to the edge of sleep. It has been my therapist and sounding board. It has held my wishes and hopes and my realities, no matter how they matched up to those wishes and hopes.

It has seen me through high school, struggling with depression, working through my parent’s divorce, dealing with a unhealthy romantic relationship, college, my move very far away from home, the early days of my marriage to Stephen as a grad student, jobs with odd coworkers, my miscarriage, and the birth of my son.

Through it all is a thread of notes and letters I’ve saved from friends and family. The journal itself has been a friend like no other. One I have, at times, both cherished and resented. I have lugged the boxes that hold these notebooks cross country. They were stored for a time in my dad’s attic. The one gigantic box they have been in since we moved to Alabama has sat beside my desk since before Eli’s birth, mocking me to deal with all those pages.

Today I removed all those pages from all those notebooks and put them in acid free file folders in acid free boxes so I could store them and have a bit more trust that someday when my kid(s) want to, they can read about what Mom’s life was really like.

This last week I visited the blog of a friend that I have been out of touch with for some time. I was shocked and saddened to learn that his marriage ended this past year. This is a person who inhabits many of those pages of my past. Someone who I went to school with, worked with, studied with, goofed off with, laughed with, cried with. He taught me cheerful sarcasm, optimistic pessimism and how to load funny sounds on my Mac. When I realized how much time had passed since I’d heard from him, I wanted to call right away and offer whatever support I could at this very late date. But then there was the moment when I realized that I don’t really know this person anymore. I have a memory of what he was when he was younger. And he is crystalized in my mind. Idealized by youth.

While shifting pages from notebooks to file folders today, I found a card he gave me on my birthday in high school and it was the perfect card from one friend to another. And I knew that I needed to talk to him even if it was uncomfortable for me. That it was the right thing to do and the thing that I wanted to do. I chatted with a mutual friend online and found that he didn’t have a current phone number so I sent an email that said, “let’s catch up if you have time.”

I thought about procrastination as I was cutting pages out of spiral bound notebooks and why I had waited so long to do this job that was so very easy to do. I think I was worried about the emotional fallout of accidentally reading some entries. But I breezed through it. I caught a line here and there and smiled fondly at photos and poetry scribblings. I realized that I was proud of how far I’ve come with the crutch of this particular written friend.

My friend called a bit later as I sat sifting through my college memories. I asked if he remembered me carrying this notebook and he did, of course. One old friend remembering another? I wondered. There was a joke about bathing an elephant and it was suddenly like no time at all had past. I think we reforged the connection of shared life experience. He is the friend from my youth and I am so thankful tonight that he is not still just packed away in the pages of my journal.

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