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Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
Latent, No Longer Dormant
I shouldn't even be writing this. I need to get up in a few hours to do the things I'm too tired to do tonight, before making the long drive to teach my 7:30am class. And then, when I'm done, I will have to make rapid headway on all the other things I have to accomplish tomorrow, before driving back to tackle more TO-DOs, many of them decidedly tardy.

Sometimes it seems like my outwardly brutal schedule isn't much trouble at all. I've even deemed it a blessing. But nights like this, I realize how much self-deception is bound up with those sunny assessments. Or maybe it's just that recent events have changed my perception of my situation.

My parents are coming out to Tucson, for at least six months, which is an enormous relief. They need help from family. And they will get it here. That said, the reality of their current circumstances is easier to cope with in the abstract than in the flesh. I will be delighted to spend time with him. But my mother's condition and the toll it has taken on my father will weigh on my soul more forcefully when they are nearby.

Maybe that's why I'm tripping out so much on the fact that I've started to slip past the elementary-school barrier on Facebook. Because we moved after the fifth grade, I lost touch with almost everyone who mattered to me as a kid. Were it not for the close family friends who stayed in touch with my parents over the years, I wouldn't have any connection at all. They live in the Phoenix area, though, together with their three daughters' families, which led me to begin touching base with individuals I'd thought about a lot over the years yet had no way of making contact with.

What David Fincher's dark portrait of Facebook's early history fails to bring home is the degree to which Mark Zuckerberg's ressentiment-fueled exploits have led to the precise sort of networking social climbers typically avoid. Sure, Facebook still functions as a way for young people to posture and rank. But it also enables us to pry open the Pandora's box of childhood.

One of the people I added to my friend's list today is someone I barely spoke with after first grade. Not because I didn't want to, but because her schedule and mine -- we were in different grades, brought together in a multi-age classroom -- just didn't overlap. Nevertheless, I've thought of her a lot over the years. Indeed, I was just telling my daughter about her the other day.

It's worth pondering, though, how far removed that sort of connection is from the "We hooked up" of Facebook's college-centric origins. The social networks being facilitated by Facebook today are often ones that were long dormant. In a sense, it's being used to bring back the dead.

In my case, such conjuring takes on added force because remembering what it was like to be seven or nine -- I also corresponded with my third-grade teacher today -- means remembering what my parents were like when I was seven or nine. It means remembering the place where I was happiest and to which I've always longed to return. And it means pausing to think about how much different my life would have been if I hadn't been forced to leave my Pennsylvania home.

That brings me back to the present, all that I must do before flying back to Maryland to retrieve my parents' car this weekend. I wish I could just put the world on hold for a few days, so I could attend to that task and the mental retrieval that will surely accompany it as I make my way back across the United States, tracing routes we took on family vacations during my elementary school years and then passing through New Orleans, where I spent my happiest elementary school vacation.

I have such rich, clear memories of that trip, of all the trips we took, even what we ate at many meals. I wonder sometimes whether my memory is an aberration. Could it really be true that there are people for whom the pre-teen years are but a dim smear on the glass of remembrance? Or is it just that I have opened up the passages back to that past as a way of distracting myself from the far more troubling memories of recent years? Perhaps I'll try to write about that -- or at least think about writing about it -- during my drive this weekend.

Current Location: 85704

4 comments or Leave a comment
(Deleted comment)
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 5th, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Thanks for commenting! I love how evocative your descriptions are. It sounds like you had a lot of fun, even if it was of the solitary sort.

I agree with your reasons for not wanting to pursue connections with those who grew up there without every growing out of their parents' worldviews.

But I wonder if reestablishing ties with pre-teen friends would be more attractive if you had moved far away from your home around the time I did. I know my nostalgia is largely based on fantasies with a tenuous connection to reality. Nevertheless, I can't break its spell.
croneitude From: croneitude Date: October 5th, 2010 04:48 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Beautiful post. Thank you.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: October 5th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
You're welcome. Bizarrely enough, I found The Social Network inspiring. Not because of the way the main characters' lives play out -- they are mostly odious -- but because Facebook-founder Mark Zuckerberg begins the project by "blogging under the influence" on Live Journal, with Live Journal graphics circa 2003 prominently displayed. That's when I started mine, after reading others for a long while, so it seemed appropriate to indulge my nostalgia by writing in the less-careful way that I used to before I had any readers.
quuf From: quuf Date: October 5th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I'm very, very lucky: Two of my best friends go back to the first grade, and I've known another since I was three. It's overwhelming to think of the store of shared memories we can draw upon - everything from catching tadpoles to experiencing the usual middle-age maladies. :)

I completely understand why you'd want to get in touch with people from your childhood. I hope it makes the enchantments of that time all the more vivid to you.

Drive safely!
4 comments or Leave a comment