Memories

“Memories…misty water-colored memories, of the way we were…” I can hear Barbara Streisand singing from my past (but I can’t remember all the words).

Last week I received an e-mail from an acquaintance of mine from college. He remembers me well. He recalls eating lunch with me on many occasions, me briefly dating his roommate and running into me at a mall during spring break. I don’t remember him at all. His photo brings with it a vague memory too hazy to bring into focus. And I thought I had such great memory — especially when it came to people and events.

I do, really, but not for people, it seems. Recently my high school had a decade reunion – people who graduated between 1980 and 1990 got together. I didn’t attend, but I looked at the photos posted on line. I recognized very few people. Many names were familiar, but it was hard to put the faces with those names. Of course, time had caused many people to change their looks – hair was shorter or longer or grey or nonexistent, bodies were heavier – and that made it recognition more difficult.

It was odd to hear from this man and to look at his photo. He’s handsome, successful, has a family, enjoys time with friends, and leads what he calls an “exciting life.” I wonder why we didn’t connect in school. A nice Jewish boy too shy to ask anyone on a date – or lacking enough confidence, as he told me, I would have likely been quite happy to get to know him better. As I told him, I never found one boy in college I really liked or felt I could stay with for very long. What might have happened had we actually dated?

He told me about his father dying, needing to work to go to school, feeling as if no one would be interested in him. I wish I’d known that much about him. Did he ever tell me his story, I wonder? Did he know that my father died when I was just 7? Did I ever tell him that we had some things in common? Did I tell him I was looking to date a Jewish guy? Did he want to date a Jewish girl?

And why would he contact me now, after all this time? Yes, he found me on the Internet…doing a search of some sort, I suppose. I’ve been all over the Internet lately as I try to promote myself and my writing. But why now? Things happen for a reason…

I told my girlfriend that I thought it odd that someone I might have considered dating in college would suddenly contact me now…when I am on the verge of success. I’ve always had this fear that success might take me away from my husband. I’ve always considered the possibility that I might meet someone while out “on the road” with my books and my teaching. Not that I want that to happen…I just considered the possibility. It’s been part of my fear of success.

This guy made no advances. Nothing like that. Just contacted me. But it brought up my stuff.

And it also made me think about how much I enjoy talking to people who “knew me when.” There’s a context in relationships that go way back that you don’t have in newer relationships. I love getting together with old high school friends for that reason; they don’t just see you for who you are now; they see you for who you were and who you’ve become. What would it be like to get together with this man? Would I remember him if I saw him in person? Would memories flood back?

I liked looking at this man’s picture and trying to remember him “when.” He’s grown up so nicely, looks like such a nice man…

Why do people meet at certain times or run into each other after many years? My girlfriend said, maybe this was more about him than about me. Maybe. Maybe it is about the fact that the publishing company for which he works also owns some magazines that I might be interested in contacting…maybe it’s because my other girlfriend might want to write for his magazines. Maybe there is nothing at all to the contact he made…

But it still leaves me to wonder…and to feel grateful and honored for being remembered.

Maybe this “meeting” was to show me that I need to try harder to remember people. I rarely remember names of people I’ve briefly met. That’s not a good thing for someone in my line of work. People are important to me. Yet, I taught a class of students for three months and could hardly remember their names. I’d hate to think some people aren’t important enough to me to remember their names or to care enough about their details to commit them to memory. Usually I at least remember their faces. In fact, I’m good at that.

I met with a rabbi this past weekend, someone who contacted me “out of the blue.” Actually, he read a comment I made on a list serve and then looked me up on my web site. I didn’t remember having met him before. He wasn’t sure we had met previously either but thought the photo on my web site looked familiar. As I walked towards him, I immediately recognized him as someone I’d met at the last Aleph Kallah. His face was familiar. However, he remembered having a conversation with me and me introducing him to a friend. I didn’t remember that. Again, I felt grateful and honored to be remembered. And I felt sorry to not remember more about him, especially since he appears to be a very knowledgeable and nice man with whom I have a lot in common.

I’m still not sure I know the significance of these events…maybe they’ll become apparent later…but it’s been nice to bask in the knowledge that I am remembered.

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