a memory trigger: long ago and far away

Weird post title, right? Well it’s just the way it popped into my head today.

Yesterday one of my besties from growing up (and today) got in touch to let me know she had found a place up near here for when she is in town to see family and to be able to spend time. She had married and ended up in Florida, but now that her kids are in college, she wants to be able to split her time between two states. She’s mostly a sun person but not quite a snow bird.

So she tells me where she found a place, and I remembered she was going to be near where someone a lot of us knew many years ago once lived. It is trite but true that you have people in your life who are in the following categories: reason, season, lifetime. But it’s true, isn’t it? People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. This was someone in a season category.

This guy was someone many of us were friends with when we were younger. He was an awesome person, but somewhat of a Peter Pan so when we all started to settle down into marriages or even more serious relationships and jobs/careers, he is one of those people we remembered always fondly, but faded away over time. He was just simply put, living a different life than we were eventually living. The pieces no longer fit.

So my friend’s new home triggered a memory of this guy we all knew. He was just about out of college when we all started college, and by the time we met him, he was at first job stage and we were all still in school. I remember exactly where some of us met him: at one of those outdoor summer keg parties that probably don’t really exist the way we knew them back in the proverbial day. It was at one of those parties we met him and his roommate at the time. The roommate was a tall good-looking slightly arrogant guy with dark hair with essentially no time for college girls working for the summer in Avalon, NJ. The guy we came to know was a lot of fun to be around.

Well that was the first memory that surfaced for me, when we both said “wonder what ever happened to him?” and then found his obituary on Google. He had died of cancer right before COVID. He had also moved out of the area some years prior, so I actually don’t know who knew he had passed away. I think the random memory of summers in Avalon those years also surfaced first because today would literally be the day many of us were moving into summer rentals for jobs that started Memorial Day Weekend.

This guy we knew was someone we would see here and there after the beach summers. We would meet up for drinks. I had friends who would see him more, because like him, they like the Delaware Avenue clubs back then…I didn’t.

We then didn’t see him for a few years. He got married and wasn’t out and about. Then one random time that another guy friend had me and two of his sisters go to some club on Delaware Avenue called the 8th Floor, we ran into him with another friend. For this club, you had to dress up and you went up a freight elevator and there this club had quite honestly amazing views of the city. It was a great adaptive reuse. I remember when we went. We took old school photos that night. I still actually have a couple of them. It was during my black velvet headband phase. (I will note for the record my mother liked this phase much more that the early to mid 80’s purple sparkly eyeshadow phase.)

Anyway, I ran into this friend there with another friend that night, and kind of blurted out “What are you doing out clubbing? I thought you got married?” Well them my one friend he was with doubles over laughing because apparently he had just gotten divorced. (Foot in mouth. Yup.)

Then it was back to him joining all of us remaining singletons out once in a while. He also made a perfectly acceptable friend escort to things when my mother would have a fit that I couldn’t possibly go to wherever by myself, I needed an escort. That was always a battle with my mother until I learned to put my foot down and tell her no, it was fine for me to go by myself, it just made HER uncomfortable. (But I digress.)

The last time I saw this male friend was another friend’s wedding in November, 1998. I was a bridesmaid and there was a head table. The bride’s mother was adamant we had to essentially make all look perfect and there were a few of us many bridesmaids who weren’t dating anyone, engaged, or in a committed relationship. Therefore, that meant dragging out the male friend dates and dusting them off. This guy was my escort. He ticked all of the boxes. Grew up going to Main Line school, had normal dress suits, had been to clubs like Merion Cricket, my mother wouldn’t scream “not him.”

Another guy friend of another bridesmaid at this wedding was her escort (and this “friend boy” ended up marrying yet another bridesmaid a couple of years later because I introduced them at the rehearsal dinner, but that’s another story for another day.) Then there was another guy we were all friends with who was a fill in at the head table for yet another unattached bridesmaid.

Now this was one of my favorite weddings, although no longer connected to the bride and groom a couple of decades later. But it was a special wedding, although honestly incredibly stressful to be a part of at times. We didn’t have a “bridezilla” per se, but a Mother of the Bride-zilla. From how much weight she expected us to lose onward. And the dresses were baby’s bottom pink slipper satin in November and the actual wedding photographer was a male diva that almost caused a mutiny of bridesmaids on the wedding day.

This was also the wedding that when I went to the ladies room before they served the appetizer of shrimp cocktail, some of us in the bridesmaid category went to the ladies room and when I came back, the guy on the OTHER side of me (as in not my friend escort) ate his shrimp cocktail….and mine. In like 5 minutes flat when I went to the ladies room. My escort laughed and laughed…so did I.

Now the way this wedding ended was this guy whom was my escort picked up a wedding guest and went out somewhere with whoever it was. I laughed because it was just the way this guy was, and he wasn’t an actual date date so, I really didn’t care. But oh my did it cause chatter at the end of the wedding and after.

After this wedding, I think I remember running into this guy a couple of more times, but then that was it. None of us saw him much after that. He was the nicest of guys, but he kind of stayed Peter Pan and we all kind of grew up more. Jobs, families, other things. But he was someone I will always remember fondly because he was a good guy, and fun in a season of our lives. He was never destined to be a lifetimer, and I think we all knew that even back then.

That’s the funny thing about these discoveries. You can be a little bit sad this person you once knew departed the earth, but the older you get it’s a finality and often if you mourn, you are mourning a closing a door in certain chapters of our lives more so than mourning the person. I am not being callous, it’s just the way I think it can be. Am I mourning any of this? Honestly? No. But I did enjoy the memories that will fade away once more.

And this one real estate purchase and discovery of this obituary just let loose a whole slew of memories from over many, many years.

Memories are a process of association within our brains. Memories also have different contexts, and some contexts will associate memories with other memories. In my case, a friend saying where she bought a place and was moving reminded me (and us) of someone we once knew now long ago, and longer ago for her because she moved out of the area so many years ago.

People often say I have this huge memory database going on in my head. I think it’s just context. Things you see, read, talk about just remind you of other things.

Older memories aren’t necessarily ever forgotten, you just need triggers that remind you of other times, places, people.

There are so many things that trigger memories. Even being happy or sad in a moment can remind you of other happy or sad moments. And we remember things at different times. Have you ever had someone say “Do you remember….?” and you don’t remember a thing, and then later at some point in time you actually DO remember?

Anyway, just a ramble down memory lane. I am sure my armchair critics will have something to say, but you know what? So what? It was nice to remember a few happy and often funny memories of long ago. There is enough tragedy in the current world that I don’t mind the memories that remind you that life is not all bad.

Carry on and thanks for stopping by.