Monday, October 13, 2008

Meeting The Children

I've accepted that I've finally entered the stage of life when some friends will be getting married and having children. What wasn't totally expected was that two of the girls I used to dance with in Los Angeles--when we were all fishnet-wearing cabaret Dames in The Toledo Show--would have children only four months apart. This weekend four of us Dames got together at my mother's house out in the Valley, ate BLT's, and I met Bodhi (right photo, with his mom Kristin) and Juliette (left photo, with me).
"Who would have thought?" said Toni (Juliette's mom). "Just a few years ago we wouldn't have believed this."

Since moving back to California I've been thinking a great deal about the value and purpose of sharing personal history with people. I'm celebrating fifteen years of friendship with Melissa this month. Tonight Louis and I realized that we've known each other for twenty years, which means Anthony and I have known each other for as many. Kristin, Toni, Emily and I all shared an incredible coming-of-age together in the Toledo Show beginning seven years ago, and have kept in touch long after that period was over for all of us. Susan has known me since I was eleven. For the first time, ever, I feel surrounded by history. I made large moves at eight and fourteen years old, and so don't have a sense of "hometown." There's no house I grew up in. I didn't keep groups of friends over my childhood, and don't have a crew from high school. I'm reconnecting with a few college friends, who've known me ten years now, and it feels like a very, very long time.

I don't want to wax sentimental about the inherent value of history. I don't think that shared history alone should be enough to sustain relationships, and I know that for true closeness to occur, relationships have to have current, working content. Otherwise, they are empty vessels for nostalgia to pour in, and I don't want to waste time on that. Examining past patterns, triumphs, defeats, and methods: great. Listing memories for the sake of establishing some commonality: not interested. What seems to be the perfect relational balance is some blend of the irreplaceable shared past experience AND commitment to continual examination and awareness of shared values in the present.

I occasionally worry that because I didn't have a wealth of childhood friends make it into my adulthood I will over-value shared history and offer loyalty to people who no longer have real commonality with me. I notice that the people from my past who seek me out on Facebook are of two kinds: those who exuberantly approach me with concrete memories of something I said or did with them, and those who seem to have a bare minimum of name recognition ("you went to my high school..."). I accept as Facebook friends those who seem to have been affected by knowing me at some time in our lives, and ignore those who don't take the time to extend themselves. This, I think, is one way to make explicit the fact that I value and am interested in what I can learn from the past, without falling prey to an indescriminate invitation for all. There's just not time to try and reminisce with everyone. What I want, above all, is to be in contact and communion with people who care about the same things I do. Many of them, especially at this point in my life, are also people with whom I have years of relationship. Some of them are not, and those friendships have a very different flavor/tenor/trajectory, which is also fascinating.

All of that being said:

Toni taught her baby to kiss. That photo is of Juliette leaning in to kiss me, after sitting in my lap for a total of about sixteen seconds. There is something to be said for that kind of immediate trust and affection, and the something is YES!

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