You Are Who You Were When, Maybe

Posted by jlubans on August 07, 2013

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Not long ago I went to my first high school reunion the 50th. I moved out-of-state right after graduation and never returned. And, I had lost touch with a very good friend, someone who ran track with me; I was hoping to re-connect after half a century. *
The venue was a seaside hotel in Plymouth, MA. I entered the back door, wandered down a long hallway, and found myself in an open space full of old people. I did not recognize anyone; frankly, I thought I was in the wrong place or maybe the re-union was not until next week.
Well, after twenty minutes, and a couple glasses of truth serum, I started to pick up glimmers of recognition, of remembrances. A few people, blurry to start with, came into focus; others never did. If Id been looking at a pool of water, Id have to say it was all roiled up. Eventually, things calmed down and the face of someone Id been talking to would reveal itself an Aha! moment . The nametag helped! The wrinkles dissolved and I was able to get past the dress-up suit and cocktail dress, the gray hair what there was of it - and the extra pounds.

This is by way of introduction to a little mind exercise I have been
doing. When I look at a person, a stranger - someone I am meeting for the first time - I try to envision what he looked like as a child. Is the child revealed in a gesture, in a smile or other expression? Ive had bosses that I could see as children and then I have had one or two who were caught up in adulthood the child was hidden away, presumably to better rule others.
No, I am not blubbering about The Child Within or about a secret society of us vs. them, of kids vs. grownups. Weve all grown up, most of us have had to work and weve done the best we could, and so my little exercise is not about resistance. Rather, its about my gravitating toward a person who retains some quality, some fleeting aspect that she had in kindergarten, a facial expression, or a child-hood mannerism. When I see that quality, I usually like that person, I know not why.
Someone whos glossed over, paved over who he was when, charms me less. (There is, of course, the strong possibility that person does not want to charm me!) Still, like what happened at my 50th re-union, some of the wariness and pretense can melt away from even the most mature; when rehearsing old times, a mischievous gleam enters the eye and the guard lowers.
But, I have to admit; I am drawn closer to someone when I can envision a youthful quality, when a sidelong glance stirs memories of carefree days. When I can hear an echo of something not given up along the way, not sacrificed to be someone else, someone other.

*While I missed my friend and his wife that evening, we connected via e-mail and have gotten together several times since. Hes always been more serious than me, but even now there are times when I catch an evanescent glimpse of those carefree days. In that regard, he has not changed very much at all.

Copyright John Lubans 2013

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