I recently pulled out my high school yearbook. Not being nostalgic, I was just looking for a particular photo. I was surprised to find it, since I’m the antithesis of a hoarder – I’m a chronic thrower-outer and a pack rat’s worst nightmare.
I went flipping through the museum of my classmates – so many people with familiar faces and forgotten names; some who were dear friends, some acquaintances, and many whose opinion of me mattered more than anything in the world. At the time.
I felt more than a slight tinge of guilt for not being that person who kept people together through the years, at least to keep in touch from time to time and to throw out (or catch) a lifeline every now and then. I’m envious that my husband’s close circle of friends from high school, the rather ambitiously self-proclaimed “Seven Studs,” are still in touch after several decades.
It brought back memories of sleepovers with Marilyn, of country roads and pickup trucks and keggers, of listening to Chicago and Carole King and Jim Croce for hours on end, and making out with Steve in the little closet in the back of the band hall. And in the backseat of the car after band practice. And on the band bus after football games. Yeah, we had some pretty massive hormones happening.
I thought about how badly I wanted to be friends with the “cool kids” – the cheerleaders and majorettes, and then once I was friends with them, leaving behind some of my closest real friends. And now I don’t even remember the “cool kids” names. And I wonder, are they happy? Are they married? Do they have kids? Grand kids? Did they get fat?
Then I looked at the people in my life right now, people who I love so much that I sometimes think I’ll explode. My husband and kids who I cherish, friends who enrich my life and make me laugh until I cry, people who have been kind and helpful to me over the years, for whom words cannot convey enough gratitude.
And it occurred to me, maybe there’s just one big “love” in the world, completely disrelated to individuals or personalities – like a giant cloud we pass in and out of, made of all the admiration and gratitude and warm feelings that ever was and ever will be. We can jump in, eat it up, and swim around in it to our heart’s content. Or we can sit and watch it float by while we regret forgotten friends and band hall closets.
With so many challenges and so much discord at this time, it is my wish and hope that we practice all the deliberate kindness toward one another that we can find. That we remember what is good and admirable in our friends despite any differences of opinion, and that we refrain from condemning whole swaths of population based on personal opinion, or social or political bias. That we regard friends and strangers alike with mutual respect. Because in the end, all that matters is how we behave toward others, not how they behave toward us.
And maybe one day, we can sit together and watch the clouds grow.