The idea of meeting old friends after decades of having been out of touch is romantic indeed but one that is in reality fraught with danger. Old friends are a mirror in whom you see your own face and the experience is always moving, sometimes frightening. Old friends are markers in the journey of life, voices from your past, which speak of what you were and could have become. It is an experience that leaves you with feelings of thankfulness both for what happened and what didn’t; for what you became and what you didn’t despite the seeds for both having been sown in the soil of your childhood. Some germinated in your story; others in your friend’s story. Some germinated but were not nurtured. Others grew and reached fruition.
I am saying this because when you reach my age you have a lot of people who you have known for over 50 years. That is a lot of time – half a century. If you also lived my kind of life and spent many years, even decades, away from home, you end up with friends you have not met or even seen or heard of for – well, decades. The temptation to establish contact with them is natural and strong. I won’t tell you either to yield to this temptation or to resist it and fight tooth and nail against it but will certainly caution you that it is a choice to be made very cautiously.
The main reason for caution is because what you (and equally they) have in common is over 30/40/50 years old. And things that old generally get desiccated, devoid of life, faded in color and dry to touch. Just look at a 50 year old photograph (an actual paper one, not a digital one – not that there were computers back then) and you will see what I mean. So that is what you are going with when you go to meet old friends – a 30/40/50 year old photo. When you try now to fill in color and form into it, you realize that the colors have changed and so has the form. I don’t only mean the cumulative effects of good living or hardship on the physique but far more of the effect of life on the mind, heart and soul. These are even more visible and their impact is far more powerful than signs of prosperity around the midriff. The markings on the map of the soul we call face, may show boundaries that didn’t exist or faded lines of old ones which were rubbed out. Ravines of tears long shed or left unshed and allowed to ferment into strong poisons; these are far more powerful.
So now when you take a photo, it is of people who may have some vague resemblance to what you recall but very vague. The reality which has life, flavor, color, form and which speaks and walks is very different. As I mentioned earlier – the photo will become a mirror in which you will see yourself and….. I will let you complete that sentence.
The final question is not whether you should or shouldn’t meet old friends but what you plan to do with the ways in which that meeting will change your own life story – for your story is after all, how you remember it.