You see, when you haven't had contact with someone for 20-odd years, and you find yourself trying to summarize all that has happened in the past 2 decades, there are really very few ways it can turn out. Sure. You vow to tell the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, but then you start sending messages and realizing that the Truth isn't quite what you had hoped it would be. Instead of re-introducing yourself as a captain of industry, an artistic success, or a world-travelling vagabond, you -- if you're like most people -- find your story to be one of trying to explain away a period of unemployment, seldom using your degrees, and not even having made a terribly good show of being a vagabond.
Revisiting the past on Facebook is a bit like driving back into your home town after some time away. You see all of the same things you've always seen: The tree-lined streets, the main street full of stores, the town park and swimming pool, but the longer you've been gone the more likely you are to also see the changes. You start to notice the buildings missing from main street, having been torn down -- or simply fallen -- after years of un-use. You notice the church building losing its hold on this life. You realize that time has provided as many downs as ups for the town, too.
When I went home for a family reunion last weekend, I had a mix of emotions working on me. On the one hand, I was taking Christopher home in mid-summer for the first time. He was experiencing the town he had only seen in winter, or at least the edges thereof. On the other hand, I was taking along the memories which had been stirred up by friends I had been reconnecting with on Facebook. One of those friends mentioned, recently, that she hasn't been back to our home town in well over a decade. Consequently, I was wandering around with a keener eye toward what had or hadn't changed.
The same could, in some ways, be said for the family reunion itself. I had been trying to prepare Christopher to meet the 40+ members of my family we were going to see. But many of my stories were decades old, not based in any current realities. Spending time with all of these relatives, semi-relatives, and who-the-heck-are-yous, I found myself noticing both the things which were the same and those places where the cracks have begun to show a little more obviously.
Many of the same people we had always known were there, but a few were missing -- either by fate or by choice. Many of the same stories were told -- some by choice, some... well... couldn't be stopped. And, as on Facebook, I'm sure a lot of new photos will surface in the near future.
But here's the thing. Christopher and I were wandering around the town museum on Friday (before everyone else arrived), and came across something I hadn't expected to find: a yearbook from my Senior Year in high school. (What the...? My yearbook is in a museum?) Standing in the present, surrounded by artifacts and mementos from the past, I was able to flip back through the yearbook and see all of the promise that the future held.
And, who knows? Maybe that's still there, too.