You look back and it’s over and when you’re older there’s much that’s over and over and few people – even those who are your age— don’t want to hear about it. They might pretend to listen to what you and your husband once did, but they’re only waiting their turns until they can tell you what they did.
I think, as each of us relates an anecdote, an experience, an episode, we do it not to impress or share, but simply to remind ourselves, that was us, that was me, I had that life even though now it’s over.
The other night I had the distinct experience of so much being over – or another chunk of my life—gone. Was I there? Who was I, being there? The situation was meeting at Rockridge, at a Thai restaurant, with a few women I’d known from Alameda High School. Laura picked me up at Bart, but it wasn’t she—I see her quite frequently – it was Tina and Marianne and Audrey – three women that had been part of my life nineteen years ago. I had been their “chair.” I couldn’t even grasp the fatuousness of that title, its implication, as they were telling me all they were doing and what was going on there the high school now. A Creative Writing program (Tina) and guest speaker, the classrooms, the air conditioning. What place were they talking about? The childlren they hadn’t had at the time were teenagers now.
And I sat across from them at the restaurant and tried to be young-ish with them. I had a good time. We vowed to see each other again, not to let so much time lapse. That was an experience I knew was “over” but I hadn’t looked back, or if I had, I had adapted the school, the environment, to what I thought I knew at the time, what I felt at the time, and that setting and situation became frozen, a bas relief of my past. Which those women dispelled, like a freeze frame that has suddenly become animated.
What was odd was while I was not there, they had all gone on, creating and experiencing change, while I had looked back at what was over. I assumed “over” meant the high school and all else was over. Not over only for me.
In the same way, and stirred by the same sort of thing – a group of women – have I seen my New Jersey high school life. That is another series of shadowboxes of experiences, the people forever young, or the age we all were when I left. It’s surprising—thoroughly—to me when they send pictures. Or, the time we all got together on a zoom screen: I wondered who were these women? These very vital young women, as I was once just such a woman, turned into old people, valiantly held together with good hair styles and nice clothes.
Isn’t that me as well? It didn’t occur to me that they’d see me the same way.
And yesterday I had that same sort of time-travel experience when I ran into a woman who was on the staff of City College, in my department, in another scene that, too, has become a short-short, a youtube clip now, an experience or chunk of life I very reluctantly look back on and see that it’s over.