8 Mar 2014, 12:34pm

A Little Personal History, part 10, friends silver and gold

Make new friends,/ but keep the old/one is silver/ and the other gold”

When I look back in memory, I get a lot of blanks. Was I not paying attention or averting my eyes? Is it fading because I don’t look back and try to carry stories forward with me, repeating them to myself. What am I repeating to myself instead? A lot of things are in the brain and just need the right prompt to be dragged out.

Why can’t I draw more to mind? Faces elude me particularly. That used to frighten me. I couldn’t even picture my own father’s face. He waved off camera’s angrily. As a teen, more than half a lifetime ago, I once drew it, amazed that my hand could make what my mind’s eye couldn’t see.

Paper record is more reliable than memory, in its way. I can at least see verbatim what I called important then. But being a good archivist of self and clear perceiver means picking up on the pivotal things, the telling distinctive things. Too often it’s the big event instead of the more significant everyday that informs the biggies. Because the normal is so constant who records it? Who can even explain a joke, or remember anything but the punchline, or maybe not even the punchline, just the laughter.

In high school Murray and I played darts. We were raking leaves, cycling, taking turns driving the carpooling to work, riding horseback in the side pasture. A lot of passing the time. We didn’t talk much, did we? What about if so?

We rode the bus, playing hangman and X and Os. 3 years of sitting on the bus and Lisa bringing a new riddle for most of them. What were any of the jokes? Lisa was probably 8 years younger so they might have been, how do you know an elephant has been in your fridge? The footprints in the butter. Murray had many knock knocks. There was no past or future. I couldn’t tell or say anything from before we met. There was never much mention of outside the now.

Lisa sometimes drew me a picture. We chattered away. What did we say? We enjoyed each other’s goofiness. And Murray having a new joke most days too. We enjoyed each other’s company. Were were just walking alongside because it was someone convenient to walk with?

Murray and I used to play basketball with Ian in primary school. One time gym class was baseball, or maybe T-ball. We collected daisies in the outfields and wandered off and were whistled in. We cut a deal with the teacher to play 21 instead. It would still be moving so the purpose of the teacher’s curriculum, we would be covered. We would be outdoors and moving. We were okayed for that and did that all term instead.

We often played 21 at break and lunchtimes with Ian. I googled Ian. He died years ago. So many people I google have died. No causal relation but it does make one hesitant to check.

25 years ago I have impressionist scenes with odd things in focus; my mental image being of grass at the base of the foundation, or the texture of cork on the dartboard on the machine shed, slowing warping as it weathered, the wire guides rusting.

What did we do? Lazy hazy days hanging out. Murray and I played 21 for 5 or 6 years either at a school hoop or the one on the end of my parent’s garage where the red paint peeled off in irregular grey-backed curling strips and the hoop had long lost its net and stooped so it was something of a top down perspective even from the ground.

The hard packed dirt and ruts and bits of grass of the laneway made the bounce harder to predict. I can’t remember who won or lost. The tree beside it is cut down. The garage has a side shed and new door and the lane is regraded. The shade from the other tree uphill is cut down too. The old sloping hoop hung on by a screw for a while and is gone now.

I let many good people slip away. Was it lack of caring? Perhaps some. Learning to trust and love is a skill as any. Was it negligence? I used to be fatalist having no say in what happens. I used to think people would drift back in, that the world was small enough. But the world is pretty huge, isn’t it. People can fall off it entirely.

Were we making the best of coincidentally being in the same place and time? Why didn’t I say, wait, for this next bit of life, come along.

Living is a process of learning to be more open, more joyful, more connected, more articulate. I wasn’t in a place I could do that as well as now.

Now I try to admit when I’m attached to someone, I try to keep up contact. People matter to me but sometimes I get too caught up in my own natters. I try to set aside my blithering nervous self and focus on the person I’m with, retain what they say, follow up later, have the past and future there with us.

Most people are lousy at staying in touch. I get bitter when it’s always me being the one to say, hey, you alive over there? Assurances that I’m not harassing but welcome to hallooo and missed — those help.

Where I am now is a good place. Over the last few years I’ve lucked out into people who are genuine and interested and interesting. I’ve come to know more soul gems than anyone can reasonable expect to get. There are people I enjoy the company of and who enjoy me. What more could one ask for.

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