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.