Sunday, October 9, 2011

new friends, old friends

The past can be so compelling and yet, when drawn into the present, so ordinary.

Yesterday, Keith and his wife Hatchy, two people I hadn't seen in 50 years, came by for a visit and a very pleasant lunch. Before their arrival, my head was whizzing as I tried to dredge up why and how Keith and I had been friends in college. I fretted, in part, because I really do have a lousy memory. Much of what others delight in with their memories is filled with pretty unpleasant stuff, so generally I relegate memories to a safe and forgotten and arm's-length distance. It's an old habit that was challenged when Keith and Hatchy came to visit.

Once over the fact that we were all 50 years older and grey-er, there we all were, a small group of seventy-somethings, chatting along about kids and employment and whatever struck our fancy. It was wonderful for me ... just to be in the company of people I liked in the concrete present. They surprised me by remembering things about me I had utterly forgotten. But the past was like smoke rising from a toasty camp fire ... it was there, somehow, but it wasn't the fire itself, except of course it also was the fire itself. The past became light as a feather. It was accommodating but not insistent.

We were grist for each others' mills. All of us more or less the same age, with experiences under our belts and stories to tell -- Keith as a one-time insurance underwriter, Hatchy as a Montessori teacher, their two kids, a boy and a girl and how they were faring ... just warm talk with people who were of a similar age. There was the organ recital -- Keith with knees that were giving out, Hatchy with some earlier heart problems, me with my heart stuff -- but it was just part of the warm tapestry, one topic to be woven into thoughts and emotions through which we all tripped lightly ... because we had been someplace and that place was not the only place.

Weird in one sense, meeting up with what you haven't seen in so long. And yet perfectly natural in the present gentle breezes of conversation and food and good company. It was a really good time for me... being around people who took an interest in the fact that I had built the zendo but who lived in the Bible Belt of South Carolina and really didn't take much interest in religion ... but were interested that I was interested, much as I was not interested in multi-million-dollar insurance underwriting, but I was interested that Keith had chosen that way as a means of putting food on the family table.

What a good time and how informative. And today, yesterday is past, but the warm wood smoke lingers ... lightly.

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