My connections with friends are important to me and I have held onto as many of them as I can, despite the number of times I have moved over the past twenty years. I thought I was in touch with most of the really important people from my past already. However, joining Facebook last month has brought surprising results. It has allowed me to connect more easily and quickly with a great number of people, including – but certainly not limited to – all of the people I’ve kept in sporadic touch with over the years.
Through blogging, I have found a wonderful group of friends – I know a lot about their lives, what’s going on with their kids, what they’re reading, what they think politically – and even what they’re having for dinner, if they happen to be on Twitter. I know them well enough that when I meet them, they are who I expect them to be. But this is different; now on Facebook I am seeing the small children of people I have known intimately in real life, reading about the lives of people I knew briefly at one job or another, and amazed to see photos of my childhood friends’ parents showing up in their Thanksgiving pictures – parents I remember so well but haven’t seen since I left my hometown in 1989.
It goes even deeper than that. Through the network of Facebook I reconnected with a group of friends I went to camp with in New Hampshire during my last three summers of high school. We were together for one week each summer, and it would be too difficult to describe fully what that experience was like, but it was unlike any other camp I’ve known. It was a family camp, but we teenagers had a girls’ cabin and a boys’ cabin, which were right next to each other. (And if you’re imagining that we had counselors or any type of supervision, think again!) I think I saw my parents at meals – not that I ate with them, I don’t think, but we checked in. We hung out on the beach of Lake Winnepesaukee until all hours of the night, but only after the nightly all-ages folk dancing in the barn. We had classes each morning – of which I remember absolutely nothing – but I do remember a lot of freedom, laughter, incredible friendships, and a great deal of music and theatrics. Our parents, too, had themselves a good time, staying up late with their friends by the fire in front of their cabins, having a few (or more) drinks and telling stories. We went with a big group of families from my hometown, but people came from everywhere, and so although I knew some of the kids really well already, I met many more there.
I hadn’t thought about camp in a very, very long time until these familiar faces started to appear on my Facebook friend list. What shocked me initially was how many of them live in San Francisco; I probably pushed the stroller right past their houses when I was there or waved them by at an intersection without recognizing them. What hit me next was that I saw current pictures of the “little kids”, the ones who were 10 years old and dancing crazily around the barn every night, who appear to be adults now, too, posting notes about their jobs and weddings.
So much is coming back to me now that we have started posting pictures and commenting on them, and I realize that this was a whole part of my childhood that I had lost for at least fifteen years. Completely lost. I left and moved on, even as some of my old friends grew up and continued to go to the camp year after year and still go today, even by themselves, no matter where they live. And it was an important part of my childhood. I can look back now and see how those years at camp changed me and contributed to my development. But how eerie that I had simply lost touch with those memories.
Tonight I went to the group page we created for ourselves on Facebook, and found that one member had uncovered and linked to sound files on the web of two of the folk songs we danced to each night in the barn. They were the last two songs of the night, I believe, and I was always disappointed when they were played because it meant that the dancing was winding down. As I listened tonight, I was taken aback by the intensity of the memories that were provoked, and found myself with unexpected tears in my eyes. I was hearing one of the songs as if I was walking in the meadow in front of the barn, hurrying towards it with my best friend, trying to catch a bit of the last dance before it ended. I was wearing my hippie-dippie Indian print wrap skirt, and smelled of bug repellent. My flashlight wasn’t necessary to get to the barn, but would be later when we made our way down the narrow path through the woods to the beach. Perhaps it was the night when I stayed up until sunrise with a couple of friends out on the raft in the water, watching shooting stars and laughing for hours. I can’t see or hear about a shooting star as an adult without picturing that particular night sky. Possibly it was the night before our annual early morning swim across the lake and back. Or maybe it was the night when a guy asked me to dance and ended up becoming my first boyfriend, at least for a few months until the distance of my college from where he lived in New England became just a little too great.
I only spent a total of three weeks out of my thirty-seven years at that camp, and yet reconnecting with those friends and memories has been intense and satisfying. I am seriously considering taking Matt and the boys back to New Hampshire one of these summers to go to camp now, an idea that had never before occurred to me.
All this leaves me a little stunned: what other parts of my life have I left behind? What have I lost? But it also helps me to remember that every single experience of our lives – forgotten or not – is folded into the fabric of our adult lives. It’s a part of who we are, whether or not we are conscious of or can articulate its impact.
I am so grateful to have this chance to lift a corner of the fabric of my life and take a peek at such a wonderful time again. We should all be so lucky.