Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you.
— African proverb
Yes … reliving the past, reconnecting with friends and memories gone by, can be so special … but sometimes these friends and/or dreams are best left alone.
I tend not to like school reunions. I am an absolute shocker at remembering faces and names once people have drifted out of my current space.
Children I have taught (and their parents), and teachers I have taught with, at previous schools are particularly bad in this respect. I know some teachers who instantly recognise students they taught over ten years ago — I am lucky to remember their names, let alone what they look like. In this regard, I only have short-term memory.
For the most part, it is rather embarrassing. I am learning to say, ‘Sorry, my memory sucks, remind me who you are again … and, for good measure, where I know you from.’ It is a much better strategy than pretending I know the person and hoping the conversation will be fleeting and not reveal my deception. My other strategy is to remind my husband before we go out, ‘If I don’t introduce you it’s because I don’t know the person. Introduce yourself, then maybe they will introduce themselves back.’
There have also been occasions when I have randomly come across old school ‘friends’ and they have recognised me …but the recognition has not been mutual. I appear to have a very recognisable face, no matter how many times I change my hair colour. Not sure if that is a good thing or not. This is super embarrassing because sometimes the ‘friend’ seems put out that I don’t remember them. Eventually, if they give me some time markers, I do remember … but not always. One particularly mortifying time I was forced to talk to this ‘friend’ for ages. She told me her name and I still didn’t make a connection … to this day, I have no idea who she was.
Before I go on, I really should clarify my use of the word ‘friend’. I would think that if said ‘friend’ was not remembered by me either instantly, or within the first 30 seconds of conversation (and memory-jogging hints) … then this person was never actually a ‘friend’ but more of an acquaintance — someone with whom I engaged for a short period of time for a specific purpose, and maybe had a coffee with at some point. Past students do not fall into this category — particularly as, during stints as a classroom teacher, you come across around 30 students a year (plus the ones in your maths group, spelling group etc.); as a teacher of Japanese, I regularly taught the whole school. So, I think I can be excused for not remembering many of these students.
Anyway … school reunions. The other reason I don’t attend school reunions is because the one and only such reunion I did attend turned out to be a ‘one-upmanship fest’. You know the sort:
‘Oh, so I went on to complete a doctorate in blah-blah and now I live in a small mansion in lah-di-dah-ville. So, what do you do?’
‘I’m a teacher.’
‘Oh … a teacher … nice.’
I have to say, I didn’t really like most of the students in my cohort at high school … there were a small number I’d count as friends (and they should know who they are) … but as for the rest … yup!
Sometimes a trip down memory line is nice though.
I do enjoy going back to my old primary school. I did a teaching practicum there once. It was weird, but really nice at the same time. The weird bit was that some of the teachers, who were there when I was a student, were still there. In the age of ‘teacher mobility’ (having to move schools every five years unless you reach a deal with the Principal), seeing some of the teachers who taught me was a bit disconcerting. I imagine it was for them too. However, realising the corridors weren’t really all that big, and seeing that little had changed in the classrooms apart from aesthetics … that was comforting. Sitting and remembering the good things was fantastic, as was reminicing with my past teachers (though calling them by their first names just felt wrong).
I also enjoy going back to places I have visited in the past. Not last year, or even five years ago … but when I was a uni student, or a child. Visiting these places is interesting to see how much they’ve changed; it’s like a treasure hunt, ‘Let’s see if we can find the path we used to run down to get to the beach.’ It is also a good time to reflect on memories, experiences and … dreams.
I have a few places I regularly visit (or would like to regularly visit):
♦ My great-grandmother’s house: she passed away when I was ten, but to my ever-growing amazement, in this age of renovation, her house remains the same. I would love to go inside, but have to content myself with just driving past. However, just doing this brings back memories of her lemonade, the raspberries in her garden, her crocheted blanket and her hugs.
♦ Broulee (used to be a tiny village, but is now a very popular tourist destination at the South Coast): friends of my grandparents had a house there, right at the top of a hill overlooking the island and the ocean. We went there a lot. I hated the outside toilet and the walk down and up the sandy path, with lots of snake potential, to the beach. The last time I drove through Broulee, I barely recognised it. The little corner shop was still there — but is now flanked by a swanky café and a surf-wear shop. There are cars everywhere … no longer safe for children to walk to the beach by themselves. Eventually, I found the road up the hill … and when we drove up, nothing had changed. It was like being in a time warp. Memories of happy days in Broulee with my parents, grandparents and aunt and uncle came flooding back.
♦ Favourite places in Japan (Miyajima, Kyoto, Mt Koya): I have been to Japan three times. The first was as a university student and was when I discovered these favourite places. The second time I went back on the JET Program and introduced these favourite places to my husband. The third time we went as a family with my daughter (and sort of with my son, as I was pregnant at the time). Each time we visited these places, walked down memory lane, made comparisons and created new memories. The visits to Japan are also one of the few times I relish rekindling old friendships: friends I made in Japan hold a special place and, although I don’t see them, or communicate with them, often … meeting up again is always special. Writing this, I realise it is time to make the journey again.
So, some old watering holes are special and should be treasured.
Others are perhaps better left alone — by all means, remember the good times, but leave them in the past.