War stories become history. Anecdotes become legend. A mirage becomes a memory. Remembrances and recollections…well…float between fact and fiction. Two entirely different events forced me out of my present orientation and into the past.
The antique microphone icon on the iPhone in front of me blinked, signaling as it recorded my words, bumbling and inelegant as they were. I wasn't exactly sure why I was being interviewed in the empty classroom, but the young, obviously intelligent woman was asking questions about my college years, the early 1970s. Supposedly, my answers, and the results of a prior photo shoot, were to be used in a 50th anniversary alumni publication. It was embarrassing how significant events (to me at least) from over 40 years ago came spilling out. Some of the stories I had retold many times before, while others leapt to mind as if from brown-edged photographs just then discovered, tucked in an old album. We were carefree teenagers, or diligent young adults, depending on the day. We had left our various home towns for the small college, longing for life outside our parents’ pretended sovereignty. My now dirty gray hair was then dirty blond, and much longer. My camouflage green coat was a Vietnam War castoff that I wore without knowing whether I was protesting something or simply posing as someone who might. Immaturity, agility and good balance led me to the attention-seeking activity of sitting on the handlebars of my bicycle, looking over my shoulder and pedaling backwards to class. I momentarily wondered if, despite my Parkinson's tremor, stiffness and loss of full equilibrium, I could still pull it off. Thankfully, there was no bicycle around to illustrate my continued immaturity. The interview led my thoughts through a labyrinth, a time tunnel I had rarely visited, to an age of growing awareness of how vibrant an adventure life could be.
Friday night's venue was entirely different; a swish golf and country club hosted a reunion of a law firm where I used to work in the early 1980s. It was an eclectic group of people then who, despite having maintained their individualistic traits, seemed to have mellowed since. Hugs, mostly sincere, replaced handshakes in many cases, something that would never have occurred when we shared the offices and workstations 30 years ago. It was apparent that those who had attended were honestly pleased to see each other. Stories, some amplified with age, were told with enthusiasm, especially if the main character was not in attendance and storyteller had visited the bar frequently. There was warmth and laughter in the room, a far different feeling than the typically serious, muted coolness that had so often permeated the corridors of the old firm. Not surprisingly, it was the staff that had come up with the idea and planned the get together, for it was them, not the lawyers, who were the heart and soul of the place. I was happy that they had so successfully pulled it off, for there was an inexplicable value to catching up with old colleagues. Despite having to explain the PD reason for my shaking arm and leg to a few, I felt comfortable in who I was and am. There seemed little left to prove, no good reason to try and impress.
Recently, a rather self-evident thought occurred to me: the older I get the more past I have to remember. It has been a long journey, a path of unpredictable twists and turns which, when I look over my shoulder, makes me smile. It has been what it was meant to be. And I am thankful for the memories, shaded and scattered though they may be. They are like the patches sewn together by my grandmother to form a quilt. It may not be a work of art, but it is warm, unique and meaningful (at least to me).