Maybe it’s because I’m not doing so well in the present that lately I find myself engaging with my past.
Last week I got a friend invite on Facebook from someone I picked apples with in orchards on the West Coast of Australia over 21 years ago. We were paid for what we picked. Megan could climb and strip a tree in a matter of minutes. She would fill five massive trailer carts with granny smith apples in the time it took me to load two. We’d work a 12 hour day on the apple farm before hitching back to our hostel to munch/bake/stew/barter the fruit of our labour. Apples were our currency. Looking back now, I see just how wealthy we really were. We stayed in touch for a while and I wasn’t surprised to hear that she had joined the fire service. She was amused to hear from me that I’m now allergic to apples (Oral allergy syndrome). She remembered me as someone I’d like to be again – fun, hopeful and energetic.
At least once a year I write to my best pal from my secondary school days when I remember her birthday in September. Yesterday I had a newsy response by email from her. I had berated myself for not being especially productive so there was little progress to report on sorting myself out. She consoled me with tales of her work sloth.
And then this…
When visiting my parents home a couple of years I found some cards and letters addressed to me in an old bag stored in the attic. Even without the stamp I would have recognised the hand-writing as that of my old university flatmate, Kit.
Kit was a couple of years older than us, her classmates, and to an innocent 18 year-old who grew up in the country, Kit was from another world, as well as a different continent. For starters she had a car. There were few if any undergraduates driving back then. The insurance costs made it prohibitive to any but the well-off. She was Canadian and talked about snow ploughs in winter and the freezing temperatures they endured. That in someway explained why Kit wore a full length fur coat to lectures. It was refrigerated for half the year. But even i wasn’t green enough to think all cold Canadians summoned their furs come winter. Kit was loud, brash, irreverent, fearless, and fun to be around.
She was like a mama to myself and our other flatmate. This letter was signed off from “Big Mother”.
The letter was written when Kit was 21 and in Canada recovering from a tonsilectomy and reading it now offers a glimpse at forgotten times. Who knows what my reply might have covered but well over two decades later I did send another letter to the address on the envelope. It was returned. The family no longer at that house. I had tried google and Facebook but with no success. Yesterday, when de-cluttering (as past of my clear house makes for a clear mind) I spotted the canary yellow envelope again. And I read it once more. So when I came across her line about a brother trying to set her up with a law student pal of his, I ran another search, this time on him.
Straightaway I found someone who practices family law, about the right age and his portrait shot reminded me of Kit. So I whizzed off a brief email to him and within minutes he outed himself as her brother promising to forward the email to his sister.
Minutes later again and I hear back from Kit herself! Excited at being found, she hurried her reply and promised pictures and updates later.
How do you account for 25 years.
I managed to bridge a decade in my missive to Megan. But this is different. A quarter of a century introspective. This is deliverance.