|My son, 3 years old, and me|
|My son and husband, 2010|
|My son, 3 years old, and me|
|My son and husband, 2010|
We all have soundtracks to our lives. At times, music has been so important to me. During my teen years there were hours spent listening to the same record album over and over, sometimes even the same song, convinced that the artist had written the lyrics especially for me. “OHMYGOSH” my friends and I would shriek. That’s EXACTLY how I feel!!!!” Neil Young, Elton John, Supertramp, Queen, Linda Ronstadt… it wasn’t until we got older that we realized – that was exactly how everybody felt. In college, music became the backdrop for parties, the thumping beat at bars and clubs – it was the 80’s, after all, and the Cars and Blondie, the B-52’s and Toto didn’t make the kind of music that made you want to cry from the emotions their songs evoked. We all just wanted to dance.
I mourn the loss of Steve Jobs,along with the rest of the world. He was one of the world’s greatest visionaries ever. However, I know that far more eloquent people than I will be eulogizing him, so I will pass on the opportunity to share my thoughts about this brilliant man. However, his death did get me thinking about something that is sort of overwhelming – how many people’s lives he touched, and, in a much, much smaller way, how many people’s lives I’ve touched – and how many have made a mark on my life, too.
Have you ever given this any consideration? Do you remember the kid you used to wait with at the bus stop in 3rd grade? How about the lunch lady you and your friends would harass in junior high? Do you remember that boy that had a massive crush on you in 9th grade, the one you just wanted to “be friends” with? Imagine what kind of an impact you might have had on his life. There was your RA in college, the one you thought was such a dork, but who probably had to work his tail off just to pay the bills and tuition. There was the waitress at the Denny’s where you went with your friends after parties and ordered coffee and split one dessert between 6 people. Hmmm.
One thing facebook has done, for better or worse, is take away a lot of that “whatever happened to” mystery- wondering about old friends, romances, roommates, co-workers, even family members – pretty much any name a person can dig up. You don’t always actually connect with everyone – sometimes its just enough to see their picture and where they live. Now you can find out, basically, where most everyone you’ve ever been curious about is, and what everyone is up to. And, of course, they know all about you too.
Just this week, I had a cousin – well, the granddaughter of my grandmother’s sister – (and if you know what cousin that is, please let me know!) contact me. It was such a great moment, reading her email, in which she talked about her memories of my grandparents – just that little connection meant so much to me. Then we became facebook friends, and looked at each other’s pictures, and who knows if we’ll ever talk again…but that’s ok, because knowing that she was thinking of me, found me, and wrote to me was enough. With facebook, this kind of think can happen often, but it never fails to give me a little thrill, finding someone I once knew, or, even better, being found by someone who was looking for me.
Sometimes people come back into my life who I barely remember, but who vividly remember me. That’s kind of an odd experience. But it’s ok too, because everyone who remembers you, even in a small way, is somehow keeping that version of you alive, their interpretation of who you are, or who you were, for better or worse. And what more do we all want, ultimately, than to know that, out there, people are thinking of of us, remembering us – that we had, even briefly, an impact on their lives.
There’s no doubt Steve Jobs will be remembered, written about, and revered for decades, if not centuries, to come. And though the memory of who I am will certainly fade away from this world long, long before his iconic persona does, at least I know that I’ve made an imprint on some of the people whose lives I’ve passed through. And, more importantly, I know I wouldn’t be who I am without the hundreds of moments shared with others – both important and fleeting.
A year ago today, there was an accident on a nearby freeway, and a friend of ours was killed. It was a terrible, terrible thing – he left a wife and two teenage children, a large circle of friends and extended family, all of whom were shocked at his untimely death. But that story isn’t mine to tell – it belongs to those closest to him. What I do want to tell you is the way our little community came together to support, help, mourn, and ultimately remember with love this man we lost too soon.
My neighborhood is small. Though we are part of a very large suburban sprawl, this is a very insular place. With only one high school in our community, it’s easy to get very involved very quickly, sometimes to a level that can be intrusive or overwhelming. No matter where you go, if you’ve lived here a while, you’ll run into someone you know – the local fitness center is practically a social club, and grocery shopping can take twice as long as you plan if you run into a few acquaintances. The high school football games are packed every week with parents, alumni, and students. This is what drew us here 20 years ago, and this is what sometimes makes me want to flee – though I can’t really imagine ever leaving here. This is home.
While thinking about this day a year ago, I see so clearly a parallel to the tragic events of 9/11, the anniversary of which we are all thinking about this week. I remember the strong sense of patriotism and compassion that came to define our country for a time because of the destroyed towers, and how everyone was a little kinder and a lot more emotional for a long while. The same sort of thing happened here in my community. This loss, so shocking and unforeseen, had a very similar effect on all of us who know this family, and also many who didn’t, but were touched just the same.
When the accident happened, it was as if every person who ever knew this man or his family was compelled to do something…anything. From bringing home cooked meals to buying dog food, his family was taken care of and comforted by the closest of friends and distant acquaintances. I watched it happen and participated in it all with such a sense of gratitude and amazement – all petty differences fell away, and various groups mixed and mingled each evening at the family’s home, offering comfort to each other, to the family, and probably to themselves most of all. Because what struck us all was, of course, that it could have happened to any of us. Truth is, it’s just luck and good timing that it hasn’t happened to any of us before or since then.
The most touching thing for me was seeing the children’s friends gathering around each of them, as if to form a human wall against the pain they were feeling. They had all grown up together…most had known each other since kindergarten. The level of commitment and caring these teenagers showed was beyond anything any of us could have expected, and it was a beautiful thing to witness and, by being around them, be a part of, too.
There have been many times over the years when I’ve wondered if we made the right decision about where to raise our family – sometimes, it seemed as if this little place presented too narrow a view of the world, and other times, when my kids were struggling, it offered little in the way of options as far as friends were concerned – but a year ago today, and for some time after, I knew without a doubt that this community, the people and the sense of closeness and familiarity, were a gift we were fortunate to have been given. We miss this friend, especially today, but he will always be part of this place, just as those who died on 9/11 remain part of our country’s collective memory, whether we knew them or not.
Tomorrow, my daughter Katie returns to Boston University to start her senior year. The fact that she’s a senior in college is almost too much for me to believe. Not that I ever had any doubt that she’d succeed in college – she’s the kind of person who sets her mind on a goal and makes it happen. And the amount of maturing and growing she’s done in the past 3 years has been right on course with what I hoped for her – she is really becoming a fully formed adult, which makes me happy and proud, but also, today, very nostalgic.
My brother has seven year old twins, and he said something to me the other day about how hard it is for him to imagine them at Katie’s and Adam’s ages – 21 and 19. I told him its almost as hard for me to believe that my kids were ever as young as his – that’s what time does to us. I remember the sweetness of summer with them at that time of their lives – the days of going to camp, then coming home and jumping in the pool, the wide open feeling of July and August, when everything moved more slowly and I could just be with them, watch them, no lessons or school or homework, no baseball or softball practice – just the kids, here, with me. This summer I had a chance to do that again, in a way. Adam came home from Tucson and worked, but he was here most evenings for dinner, and we would sit around and talk, watch some tv, just be together, which was such a nice feeling – no worries about college for a brief time, just family and friends and grilled steaks. Then for a few days they were both home – and that was really something. They bickered like they were kids, we went out for a lovely dinner one night – but it was brief, and bittersweet, since they would both be leaving again soon.
Tomorrow, when Katie gets on the plane to go to Boston, we will once again be empty-nesters, starting the process of adjusting to the quiet of just two of us once more. While I was grocery shopping yesterday I felt a longing for those summer days when they were little, when I was buying juice boxes and gummy fruits and grapes and pasta salad, knowing they’d come home hungry and thirsty. I miss those days when they were still young enough to be thrilled with little things like a stop at Blockbuster for a new movie to watch, or a visit from their grandmother on a warm Saturday. Now it seems to take so much to get them really excited, but who can blame them? Their worlds have grown so much since those summer days, and that’s the way it should be. But still, sitting together and watching “Jeopardy” can make all of us feel, for a little while, like we’re still that family – which we will always be, whenever we can.