Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Politics of Remembrance

I joined Facebook a couple months ago. It's been quite lovely, catching up with people with whom I lost contact as much as twenty years ago, and keeping a near-daily eye on friends I don't call as often as I should. In turn I can apprise the world of my status -- although my stay-at-home life is dull enough that I can't really justify frequent updates.  The whole affair is simple and casual; it's an online cocktail party, no real intimacies required.

That is why I'm surprised by how self-conscious I am of each individual action online. People are so quick to count themselves as an online friend, but with none of the responsibilities I associate with friendship. There are even contests to see who can have the most Facebook friends. Fuddy-duddy that I am, I am more selective.  People friend me, and I hesitate to include them.  What if I'm having a bad day? If they are part of my circle, do I feel comfortable including them in venting my frustration?  What is the purpose of including them, if I don't feel any attachment?  And yet . . . 

Not long after I joined FB (so hip using the initials!) I was friended by the man I dated through college.  In counting all my loves, outside of my marriage that one was the most significant. I had occasionally Googled him, wondering where his life had gone after I left (wondering, really, if his life had changed as radically without me as mine had without him), but had gotten only glimpses of people who might be him -- a comment by a guy with a similar name on a photography forum, a listing on LinkedIn.  Then suddenly he was there, asking to be my friend.  He included no greeting.  It was like a wave across a crowded room to someone you kind of know, but with whom you aren't really connected. Impersonal. Cheerful. Almost, well, obligatory. "Hey, remember me? We went to college together."  There was no hint of the three years we spent together: sunrises watched and concerts attended, fights over politics and religion, creative late-night cooking, shared intimacies and explorations across several countries.

I accepted his friend request immediately. I eagerly read his now-open profile, admiring his beautiful children (they could have been mine!), unsurprised at his career (I helped him get started), mildy curious about his wife (isn't that the woman he once described to me as a "crazy stalker"?). I then spent the following week dizzy with memories and regrets, relief and confusion. Underlying it all was the question of why he had reached out.  I found I was self-conscious - exaggerating each update for effect, not sure what to say in front of such an audience. Finally I asked, got a bland answer, and have pretended to ignore his presence since then. But I still know he's there, and I self-edit because of it.

On the other side, there are marvelous people out there with whom I would love to reconnect, but I hesitate, unsure if they would remember me. How devastating - to have someone I admired so, who figured so strongly in my life, not know who I am.  Haven't books been written about this very subject?

So, I lurk.  I watch, and wonder, and think about these people I know, and am careful about what I say in this strangely public private forum. I, who am so very bad at politics, am learning.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter (Dust) Bunnies

I hosted an Easter egg hunt for the kids on our block yesterday.  When I originally invited the neighbors over, several of us moms were standing in our front yards turning to face the spring sun, twisting like sunflowers to catch the warmth on our faces.  I envisioned the kids racing across three or four yards, searching under bushes, in flower beds, and on top of porch railings to find eggs cleverly hidden while their families breakfasted.  Instead, the forecast called for chill winds and rain, and we moved the festivities inside.

This, of course, meant I had to clean the house so the adults could stand around guarding their coffee cups while children zipped by in a frenzy intermittently fueled by sugar in various forms. And on Saturday, as I marshalled my cleaning troops, I came to the most unfortunate of realizations: when hiding Easter eggs, one has to clean the spots usually hidden.  So, for Easter, I replaced all my dust bunnies with candy-filled eggs.  And after having ten kids running madly around the house is, again, a comfortable mess.  But at least it's still clean under my couch.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wake-up call

My little girl wandered into our room at 4:30 this morning to use the bathroom.  All  went well until she discovered the toilet paper was not in its usual place (the holder broke and Dad has yet to fix it).  So at about 4:35, she started crying at me, "Momma, I can't find the toilet PAP-ER!"
Alarmed out of a confusing dream into an even stranger reality, I attempted to address the situation without actually rising.  From underneath my pillow I first suggested she look on the windowsill.  That was, loudly, declared an unacceptable response.
I suggested she check the floor.  That, even more loudly, also was not acceptable.
Still clinging to the absurd notion of bedrest at 4:40 in the morning, I, also rather loudly, suggested she use tissues from the two boxes on the back of the toilet.
Will made some noise about Violet needing to quiet down.
Violet responded to us both by going into full-on, fire-truck quality, emergency wailing.
I did not handle the emergency well.
I dramatically threw the covers back, stormed into the bathroom, flipped on the light (I would have done so with flair, if light switches were only less pedestrian), grabbed the toilet paper from it's perch next to the tissues, and forced it into her hands with a less-than-polite comment.  Then I flounced back to bed (turning the boring old lights off on the way) and buried myself under the covers.  Violet silently wiped and pulled her jammies back on, then lay on the floor on my side of the bed and quietly cried the kind of intermittent, hurt tears she will someday shed by herself in a locked bathroom.
I asked Will to (gently) put her back in her bed.  Then I proceeded to dramatically, angrily, not sleep for another fifteen minutes.  Finally I got up, checked on Sam, and crawled into bed with V, who cheerfully turned and gave me a big hug before (triumphantly?) turning over and going back to sleep.
As a result of this early-morning tableau I am tired and cranky, and fairly certain that Violet won. Not just because of that hug in the dark, but because, when I finally dragged myself out of bed this morning and went to the bathroom, I couldn't find the toilet paper.