Sunday, September 25, 2016

My past finally catches me

File this last week under "You just can't make this stuff up."

A few days earlier, my cousin — whom I'll call Deb — posted a throwback Tuesday picture of herself on Facebook from nearly 50 years ago. It was an image of her as a flautist in the Liberty (Bethlehem, Pa.) High School marching band. The Grenadier Band.

Standing with her in the photograph was a bandmate, whom I'll call Nanette. I didn't think twice about the picture for a while because, you know, it was pretty innocuous: just a couple of high school chums smiling for the camera. Cute.

Until a little bell started ringing in my head. Wait a minute, it chimed. You went to school with a Nanette. Elementary school. Stevens School, in Fountain Hill. First grade.

Nah. Not possible. So I private messaged Deb, asking her if Nanette ever lived in Fountain Hill, a neighboring community of Bethlehem where I grew up.

Why, yes she did, replied Deb, who is still in contact with Nanette. You're kidding me. The chime became a gong. The only reason that Nanette popped up in my mind at all is that she's perhaps the only person named Nanette that I ever knew.

And I knew her way back in first grade. Sixty years ago.

Consequently, my memories of her are kind of spotty. They might be the first memories that ever took hold in my brain, which explains why they now linger somewhere in the shadows of my synapses and neurons. What I do remember is going to a birthday party at her house. I think. It might have been the first social function I ever attended that included girls. And there was chocolate cake. Why do I remember that detail? I know why. Chocolate cake was important to me then.

Still is. Holy cow.

I have since submitted Nanette a friend request on Facebook, but she has yet to respond. She probably thinks I'm a stalker, but that's OK. I understand. I'd be leery of me, too.

The fact that my cousin is a conduit for all this makes this story even stranger because Deb and I pretty much have just reconnected our own family ties after nearly 50 years or so of invisibility. After my parents and grandparents passed away, I thought all I had left from my family were my brothers.

Not even close. Now I've learned there's a whole extended family of cousins and their children floating around out there. It's a comforting epiphany.

The story would be amazing enough if it ended here, but no. There's more.

On Friday, I was playing around on Facebook when I noticed that I had a friend request — not Nanette — from a guy I'll call Richard. Clear out of the blue. I thought and thought hard about this until it occurred to me that I had gone to school with a guy named Richard back when our family lived in East Hartford, Conn.

Fifth grade. Get outta here.

Richard and I lived just a block or two away from each other. Richard introduced me to Avalon Hill war gaming, and we'd spend countless hours at his house defeating Hitler's Fortress Europa or Napoleon's Waterloo with dice and elimination charts. You know. Normal kid stuff.

To this day, I still have several Avalon Hill war games collecting dust in my closet, now replaced by computer games.

Anyway, I accepted his request and we are friends again.

I asked him how he came to find me and he explained that he somehow tripped across a blog I had written that's hiding out there in Internet land. He knew almost right away that I was me (a concept that I'm still exploring) and put in his request.

So now I'm trying to put this week into perspective. It's hard to get past the "Wow" factor here, but when two blasts from the past rise up out of the mist in the same week, it kind of makes you think. Karma? Kismet? Koincidence?

I don't know. I'm kind of hoping there's not that many long-ago girlfriends out there...

1 comment:

  1. You're a wonderful writer - I know Nanette is on vacation right now - I'll give her a nudge.