Originally Blogging the Artist's Way. Thoughts, musings, experience of the 12-week course, January to March 2006. And after that?.... Life, creativity, writing. Where does it all meet? Here, perhaps.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Phantoms and Shadows

The prompt at Sunday Scribblings This week: things and people, times, places, events and how your memory has treated them. Are there people you try to remember more clearly, phantoms you'd like to reach back into the past and take a firm hold of? What do you remember of your early school years? College years? Your grandparents? First pets, first houses, first friends? Do you have a good or poor memory? If you could go back to any particular time/place to recall more vividly what it was like, what would that be?

I don't live in my hometown. It's a 5+ hour journey, so I get home every few weeks for a long weekend. Sometimes it's a couple of months, and when I am there, my time's spent with family. I've lost touch with almost everyone I went to school with. Sometimes, word reaches me of an old schoolfriend, and most recently it was the death of a girl I hadn't thought of in years. We weren't particularly good friends, but she lived nearby, and we sometimes sat on the bus together. We'd lost touch long before our schooldays ended, in fact. I changed schools, then my family moved house, so I've no idea when was the last time we exchanged a hello. I don't know what career-path she followed. I've heard she was married, but I think it didn't work out. I'm not sure whether she had children. Back in the schooldays, her best friend was a strange little girl, and I remember that I admired her loyalty. That friend died young - in her thirties, or even late twenties. It seems a long time ago. So maybe they're reunited now... I can picture the exchange... "What kept you? I've been waiting AGES at that bus-stop. Have you done your homework? Want to see mine?..."

Because I'm not about my hometown too much, the scraps and bits of news that circulate about marriages, births, illnesses, deaths, don't reach my ears as a matter of course. Sometimes one of my sisters will hear something, and will make a mental calculation as to likely age of the person, and enquire if they went to the schools I went to. Later, I'll be asked whether so-and-so was in my class at school. And more and more often, I find myself not sure. Sometimes I'm saying Yes, the name's familiar. Had she a sister? Pauline? Patricia? Was that the girl whose father had a butcher-shop? Did her cousin die in that car-crash that time?

When I was small, I remember being in town with my mother, and the sense of dread I'd feel if she was stopped by some old friend from the past. A "girl" she'd worked with, or knew from going to the dances. I knew I'd be left swinging round the bus-pole for what felt like hours, while they ran through the litany of all their old acquaintances, exclaiming at the news of who'd had another baby, and tutting and whispering at some darkly secret happening, the nature of which I never managed to grasp. In later years, my mother kept up her knowledge of her wide network of friends and acquaintances through her sisters - who lived scattered throughout the city at that stage. Long hours over pots of tea while they exchanged news of a Mary or an Annie, who'd married this man or that, (or even a fella from some other place, from Dublin, or County Roscommon, perhaps), and whose children had gone on to do this or that, to live in this place or that. An intricate and detailed catalogue that at the time felt to me to be the workings of busybodies. I couldn't understand why the doings of relative strangers was of such interest to them.

But now I'm beginning to see something of what it was. Knowing where all those people, who had touched their lives at some point, had now gone, helped them to fix themselves within their own lives in some way. Those people were people they didn't want to lose from their map. I'm feeling a sadness, a loss that I let go so long ago of the threads that would have connected me to Emily, to Majella, to Frances or Betty. They are not phantoms that haunt me in any big way, but now I am beginning to notice their shadows are about. Now I am beginning to wonder...

That was for this week's Sunday Scribblings. Go on over there to meet other Phantoms and Shadows.

Phantoms is also the prompt at the Meme Express on Monday! Who'd have thunk?

I'm participating in One World, One Heart again this year. Here's the post with my giveaway, if you'd like to take part.

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At 24/1/09 2:54 pm, Blogger myrtle beached whale said...

You are a wonderful writer. Thanks for trying to visit my blog. It is frustrating to know that people may be trying to stop by and can't. And here I thought it was just because they didn't like my writing. I am not certain which is worse.

At 24/1/09 4:45 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I age, I do find myself more susceptible to those long lost memories, and find more of them surfacing each day. I think it's important to keep as many people "on our map" of memories and rembrances as possible. Keeps us all connected to ourselves and our past, and hopefully in a good way.

This was lovely - I'm so glad you shared it :)

At 24/1/09 6:15 pm, Blogger floreta said...

some good thoughts here. i like how you wove everything together about shadows and phantoms in the last paragraph. memories and people we once knew can sometimes be haunting.

At 24/1/09 7:35 pm, Blogger Granny Smith said...

One of the things I regret is how many old friendships I have let lapse. Otto and I have been remiss at maintaining friendships, always looking at the present activities and planning future ones, never looking back. But I have begun trying to remember, conjuring images from mere scraps of memory.

Thank you for this marvelous piece of writing!

At 25/1/09 3:32 am, Blogger Judy Merrill-Smith said...

I liked this post quite a bit. I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire, but I haven't lived there since college, and sometimes have have those wonderings about folks, as you do. My parents still live there, so I get news of the deaths here and there, but that's about it. I occasionally think about going to a high school reunion(!) -- I haven't seen most of my classmates in 25 years. That'd be a shock for them, and for me!

At 25/1/09 1:28 pm, Anonymous Penny said...

I remember those feelings when my mum would stop and catch up too. I have only just finished university, and am already feeling the effects of having everyone scattered around - not knowing what they are doing. Hopefully I can keep up.

At 25/1/09 5:23 pm, Blogger paisley said...

a lovely piece... the key to it being, "Knowing where all those people, who had touched their lives at some point,"

just lovely....

At 26/1/09 12:24 am, Blogger Lucy said...

i can so relate to your feelings here.
This is where today, thanks to the web,we CAN still keep in touch with these acquaintances who pop into our lives. I so wish I knew the whereabouts of long lost friends.
such a nice read.

At 26/1/09 1:07 am, Anonymous gel(Emerald Eyes) said...

Your lovely writing flows so well. (I haven't been by in over a year because I was not in blogland.) I could easily imagine you and your mother. Well-done.

I, too, feel lots of what you have written here, compounded by growing up in a place where people move every year or two. For the past 3 years I've actively been trying to create new connections. I can't change the past but I can do something about the future.

At 26/1/09 6:16 am, Blogger Tumblewords: said...

I'm now living in my home town and after socializing for a bit with old friends found that intervening years have changed us enough we have little in common and once we've run out the memory strings.... Your post is excellent!

At 26/1/09 7:59 am, Anonymous tinker said...

When I was younger, I remember feeling much the same way as you described feeling, while listening to my grandmother and aunts giving all the news about this person or that. And now I understand a little better too. You connected the dots so beautifully in that last paragraph - especially with this - "Knowing where all those people, who had touched their lives at some point, had now gone helped them to fix themselves within their own lives in some way. Those people were people they didn't want to lose from their map." You've pinpointed it so well - those people are an integral part of the topography of our lives...Lovely writing, Imelda.

At 26/1/09 12:33 pm, Blogger Marguerite said...

What a wonderful post. As I age, I find myself also thinking more about friends and acquaintances I haven't seen in years. I also have a longing to know more about my own family members who have passed on. Very well written.

P.S. I finally posted some pics on last week's Scribbling. Please feel free to stop by for another visit and thanks for the suggestion. I really like the addition of the pics.

At 26/1/09 5:01 pm, Blogger anno said...

I find myself going through stages of expansion and reconnection, followed by contraction and loss; seems to be part of defining and redefining myself. You've put this together in an extraordinary way -- beautifully said.

At 26/1/09 7:19 pm, Blogger see you there! said...

Thought provoking piece. I married and moved to another state fairly early on but have since returned "home" at least once a year to visit family. I find the people who stayed put are still fairly well connected and I'm still connected to two of them. However, when I listen to their who/what/where updates of school friends it is as tho they are talking about strangers to me.

I suspect moving has a lot to do with keeping the friendships going.


At 26/1/09 7:55 pm, Blogger nonizamboni said...

Very thought-provoking post, beautifully written. The older I get the more interested I am in 'where are they now?' and I regularly check my hometown's on line newspaper; sometimes to check on the 'exit' of shadows.
Thanks for sharing!

At 26/1/09 8:55 pm, Blogger Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Ah - beginning to wonder indeed.

It's odd. A few Christmas cards came this year from far-flung friends - after years of no news.

Like a breeze from another era.

Hey, today's prompt at MEME EXPRESS is PHANTOM.

Feel free to stop by and leave a comment with a link to your post today!


MEME EXPRESS – daily blog prompts

At 29/1/09 5:12 pm, Blogger Amber said...

Kory has started doing Facebook I think for these reasons...for wondering about all the old friends and what came of them. It is interesting.

This is (as always) well done. You are so good to keep up with "Scribble". I haven't done one in ages!


At 2/2/09 12:42 pm, Blogger Michelle said...

Beautifully written! I found your blog because of one world one ehart so wil post of that entry of yourd in a sec. I just read this and how strange because last night I dreamt of a boy I was 'seeing' when I was at school in grades nine and ten. So I have had thoughts today of people from my past ..then I read your blog. I look forward to reading more and say a big hello from Tasmania, Australia to Ireland.

At 5/2/09 8:00 pm, Blogger Lisa said...

I so love the way you put things, Imelda. I think if we were to ever meet in person I would just ask you to talk and tell stories and I would just sit and listen. :) I'm looking forward to your teleclass. I was wishing it was before my first workshop but I got through it and it went well. (I need to put your class on my calendar. I keep missing them!)


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