The picture featured in this story is me with three of my good friends from grammar and high school. I am second from the left. The two to my right are dead. The one to my left is lost to me. I have tried Internet searches to no avail. Her name was Janice Barnett. She probably married, so that name is useless. She is one of the people from my high school who never responded to requests for information. Like many people from my past, she has simply disappeared.
As I age, I reflect back over all of the people who were important to me for a period of time and then lost as our lives took different paths.
As I age, I reflect back over all of the people who were important to me for a period of time and then lost as our lives took different paths. Perhaps we exchanged letters for a brief period of time and then stopped because we were busy with our separate lives. Perhaps we simply parted ways after high school or college and never reconnected. I have tried to find them via Facebook or the Google machine, but like Janice, women from my era took their husband’s last names when they married, names unknown to me.
I was showing my wedding album to one of my granddaughters, which made me think about the women who were my bridesmaids 51 years ago. At the time, I was young and a recent college graduate. I remember telling my mother and mother-in-law I wanted to include my BFFs as well as the relatives they thought were more appropriate choices. They told me friends come and go, but family is forever.
I have to admit they were right about that. My BFF bridesmaids dispersed all over the country, life happened, and we lost track of each other. I knew two of them had died and one lives in New York, and we stay in touch via social media. But I was haunted by my inability to find out anything about JB (same initials but not my high school friend), far left in the photo, frozen forever at age 21, wearing a ridiculous yellow bridesmaid dress trimmed in daisies. Whatever was I thinking? But that was back in 1968. In this age of social media, how could I not locate her? It bothered me off and on. She didn’t show up on college alumni lists. Her husband’s last name was too common. All I knew was they moved to Florida after college.
Finally, I found her using her maiden name. Or rather, I found her obituary. Seems she had divorced and remarried somewhere along the line, so I was searching with the wrong name. This is the second time an Internet search for someone from the past ended with an obituary. Several years ago, my husband and I decided to look for his cousin who had moved to Texas many years ago, never to be heard from again. We had been talking about how we might want to try reconnecting. Too late.
Experiences like these make me both more determined and more nervous about finding two BFFs from high school and college, both ironically named Elaine. These old friends definitely dropped off my radar, but I think about them from time to time.
The first Elaine was my high school friend and we shared a birthday. She was Elaine Rawsky when I knew her. We went to different colleges and lost touch. The last I heard about her was 47 years ago when my high school celebrated its tenth reunion. She didn’t come but somehow we exchanged letters. I know she married, became a teacher, and lived in a small town in (I think) Michigan. And that’s all. I guess I should be happy that I haven’t found an obituary yet. Still, I cannot let go of this loss. I feel like I am missing an important part of my memories of that time in my life.
The second Elaine, Elaine Wolsky, was my roommate at the University of Michigan for two years. I think Benton Harbor was her hometown. She was the first truly free spirit I met – a woman ahead of her time. I have to thank her for getting me out of my girdle and into my jeans. But after those first two years of college, we saw each other infrequently and completely lost touch after we graduated. I have no idea why that happened. We were friends who came from totally dissimilar backgrounds and ultimately drifted off in different directions. I have no photos of her. Either she didn’t take a senior photo (that would have been in character) or she left before graduating. I’m sure she never knew how much she influenced me during those college years, and I would love to tell her now.
I wish I had an iPhone back then filled with selfies with these besties. Maybe it would be easier to find them. If email had existed in the 60s, I likely would not have lost them. I also know it is a fantasy on my part that we would still have anything to talk about or that we would connect on any level. I was a very different person back then, and so were they.
During my search for JB, I was reading a book called Friends Disappear by Mary Barr. It’s really about something else, but I can’t get that title out of my head. Friends do disappear, and I wish I could meet them one more time before it’s too late like it was for JB.
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.