Monday, January 25, 2010

Old Friends & Facebook

We’re having weird weather. It rained this weekend and warmed up—it was 40 degrees at 5:30 AM on Sunday morning. Today, it’s spitting snow and the temperature is dropping and isn’t supposed to rise back above freezing in the ten day forecast. Winter is still here.

This weekend, via Facebook, I reconnected with a good friend from elementary school. Billy was in my class from the fourth grade (when we moved to the Wilmington area) through the seventh grade. We both got in a trouble a lot and are partly to blame for one teacher—Mr. Biggs—leaving the profession. We’ve exchanged several emails. Probably the last time I was at his house was in the seventh grade and it was a ruse for me to see Cathy, the love of my life. Cathy lived just across Oleander drive and a few streets over from Billy. We were a hot item in the 6th and 7th grade. As a good Italian Catholic, she’d gone to Catholic School through the fifth grade. She sat in front of me in the 6th Grade and we gave each other multiple Valentines, at a time when you had to give Valentines to every student in the class… To receive multiple Valentines meant something. In the summer, our families always went to the same place at Wrightsville Beach, out in front of the Lumina, a landmark on the beach that no longer stands. Her brothers were older and did their best to drown me, but that didn’t cause my love to wane.


I’ve told this story else where in my blog, but that summer between the sixth and seventh grade, my grandparents were down and the whole lot of us went to the beach. Cathy and her family were there and I was proud to introduce her to my Grandma. When I got home, I overheard my Grandma warning my mother about “that Catholic girl,” saying I’d convert it I married her. My mother told my Grandma that we were just kids (that hurt!) and she wouldn’t worry about it at this point in our lives. Truthfully, I was just a kid, but I felt in my heart that Cathy and I would stay together and marry and live happily together watching the sunset. That wasn't to be. Toward the end of the 7th Grade, Cathy and I had a fight. Trying to act big and tough, I called her a bitch (This was a hard way to learn the lesson that you don’t call someone that!). I pleaded for forgiveness and she forgave, but the magic had been broken. A few days later she said she had enough and broke up for good. At the last day of school, we talked for the last time. The next year, due to redistricting, she went to another school.


I’d often wondered what had happened to her. I don’t remember which year it was, but in the 90s, I spent several summers in San Francisco, doing the course work for another degree. One day, I was in a bookstore with a few other classmates. We got to talking to the cashier whose voice had a comfortable, familiar feel

“Where are you from?” I asked.

North Carolina,” she said.

“Where?” I asked.


“What year did you graduate from high school?” I pried further.


“What school?” I asked. “New Hanover High (known as New Hangover, to those of us who went to Hoggard—you can only imagine the names they had for us).

The bookstore wasn’t busy and we talked for another 30 minutes about people we knew—she’d even dated a friend of mine in high school and had worked at a McDonald’s across the street from the grocery store that I worked in. I asked her if she knew Cathy, telling her she was my first real love. She got quiet for a moment and turned white and asked if I’d heard what had happened. From a stranger, I learned that Cathy had recently died in a golf cart accident.


Reconnecting with Billy, he too told me about her death and about having run into Cathy and her husband at a party before her death, which has got me thinking about her. I’m happy to reconnect with Billy. I’ve often wondered what happened to him and I’m glad he’s doing well. We both are dealing with issues with our mothers. They were so young back then, now his mother is in a nursing home with dementia and mine has Alzheimer’s. Thinking about all that’s past and that I’ll never run into my first love at a reunion, I’m feeling a tinge of sadness come on.


  1. i am sooooooo sorry. life doesn't always 'seem' quite fair does it? ...



  2. But that young girl still lives as long as she is in someones heart and memory even though she be asleep. She lives through the things she has taught you no matter how long ago the lessons were learned.

    Be satisfied knowing she has no more peril to face in this place and content in the knowledge that you have a love for her.

  3. Sage, a couple of things. I can relate. Though not an old romantic attachment, through Facebook I learned of a girl I grew up with being killed in a car accident 12 years ago. I thought very highly of this girl. Not to say I never "liked" her, every boy did. That hit my like a pile of bricks. I expected to hear she wa doing well, etc, etc.

    Women always show back up on me. In some form or fashion they always do. I'm not sure if I should take it as a compliment or what.

    But, Italian girls. They always got to tell you that they are Italian. "Did I tell you I'm Italian?"..."You know why I'm a good cook? Cause I'm Italian"..."You know why I'm a good kisser? Cause I'm Italian"..." You like the way I look? It's cause I'm Italian"..."Did I tell you I'm Italian?"...You gotta love 'em.

  4. It's always strange imagining what might have been had we not made mistakes or had our fervent dreams as kids come true. It makes you realize how much your life could have changed from the paths that we could have taken. But at the end of these memory sessions, I'm glad that I took the paths I have.

  5. Karen, but FB can be overwhelming!

    Lisa and Venus, thanks. The sadness isn't for my loss--I'd gotten over Cathy a long time ago, but it's sad to think of a life cut short and it would have been fun to have meet again and looked back

    Walking Guy, yes, thanks!

    Appalachianist, often Italians don't have to tell you, you know! And if you didn't know from Cathy's looks (she looked Italian), her last name was a give-away.

    Ed, Although I was an jerk, I don't see this as much as a mistake as a learning event... If she hadn't broken up with me then, there would have been something else, it's just amazing that I could be so sure of things when I was 13! But, in that, I'm no different than most folks.

  6. That's been a fun thing for me on facebook too, reconnecting with high school and childhood friends.

  7. Sage
    I'm sorry for your loss. One of the reasons that I try never to miss a h.s. reunion is so that I can keep in touch, even though they are five years apart. As I visit with mom each week [she's only two hours away] and I'm beginning observe some things I'd rather not see, I treasure not only those moments, but going to a nursing home in town to visit a friend I used to pal around with who only on an occasion day might recognize me, I'm reminded 'its our relationships in life that count;' maybe that's a big reason why I love blog'in so much, because there's a sense of added relationships?!

  8. We always think the surprises will be nice when reconnecting with our old schoolmates and friends from childhood.

    I'm not suprised thant, even after so many years, you felt a bit sad. This was unexpected news.

    The good thing is you found Billy -Facebook has some advantages, not just silly fun. I still have to find it-.

    Take care!

  9. Sometimes I wonder whether reconnecting is better left undone at times, if merely to preserve the memories we have, and not tarnish them with current events.

  10. Charles, until FB, the only classmate of mine (out of 750 or so graduates) that I had any contact with was my sister-in-law (my brother married a woman a year older and in my class).

    Sleephead, I've only been to one reunion (we only have them every 10 years!) i missed the last two

    Leni, it has been good to reconnect with him and with some other friends, too

    Randall, there is always danger of learning things like Cathy's death... In many ways, I supposed she'll always be 13 years old

  11. Sage
    I think you're right on, 'every memory' has a special time and place.
    Sometimes getting fixed in time is good thing.

  12. That's tough, and what a way to connect. I feel so much the same about a few people- I'll always wonder. Touching story.

  13. I was hoping the woman in the store would end up being Cathy. Just so that you'd get some answers, you know? It's fun to see where and how people turn up.

  14. Oh man, I've often wondered if I drove a teacher or two into leaving the profession earlier than planned. Oh well, who can ever really say. Such things are nebulous.

  15. FB really is amazing in terms of reconnecting with people from the past.

    I'm so sorry to hear about Cathy. Even when we haven't been in touch, it's tough to hear of that kind of thing happening to those who once meant so much.

  16. I love FB. One of the best parts is getting to stay caught up with my college roomate and her little kids.