This morning, I received a wonderful, exciting message from a long-lost friend – and was instantly plunged into a deep pool of memories of our brief, but lovely, friendship.
In September 1974, I went into the sixth form – and, in amongst all the familiar faces, there were a few new ones: three had been at my primary school and, having failed the eleven plus, had spent the intervening five years at a secondary modern school; it was delightful to renew those links, especially as one of them, Jan, had been my best friend.
And then I saw Nancy. She, and her family, had come over from the States as her father was on sabbatical, and she, and one of her sisters, had joined the merry female throng at Milham.
We clicked very quickly – and, for that year of my lower sixth, first year of A-levels, she became my closest friend.
She lived – as did most of my friends – in North Oxford, close to a lake. I have many happy pictures in my head of a group of us jumping and diving, squealing and laughing, into the water. There was a raft, as I recall, and our little band of sixteen/seventeen year olds used to pile upon it, in those hysterical giggles understood by adolescent girls, but no one else in the known universe!
But we also used to visit one another’s houses, Nancy and I – or go for long walks around the school site, setting the world to rights, sharing our life stories, deepening our friendship.
Like me, she was sibling-rich; like me, she was the eldest – and, like me, she was a reader and a writer.
I can remember the dread I felt when summer 1975 rolled round, and I knew I was going to lose her. And I can also recall the tears, the sense of utter desolation I felt, when they went back to the States.
She gave me two books – one of which, Bright Valley of Love, I still have, and re-read only the other day – and a warmth and friendship I value to this day.
We met once more, in 1980, when she came to stay with me and boyfriend at Tanllan farm. I have such a vivid picture of seeing her familiar figure on the station platform (at Machynlleth) and feeling so excited and touched that she had come to visit.
She married, and so, eventually, did I – and we lost contact with one another in the eighties.
I thought of her, with great fondness, from time to time, but had no idea how to find her, my lost friend – until, just after my birthday, it hit me: ‘Facebook!’ I thought to myself, ‘I could try and locate her that way...’
I started the search very uncertainly – partly because I had no idea whether she went by her married name, or the one I knew her by all those decades ago; but also, if I am honest, because I was scared, scared that she wouldn’t remember me, or wouldn’t want to write back.
And then I found her, and she looked exactly the same as she had done at sixteen, seventeen, twenty-one. Unmistakable: it could not have been any one else!
So, heart in mouth, I messaged her – and, when I heard nothing, assumed that was it, the end.
But, in one of those Facebook ironies we all come across only too regularly, my message had become wedged in a metaphorical small and dusty box almost out of reach – and Nancy only happened upon it yesterday, at Easter. How appropriate!
I cannot begin to tell you how fantastic it is to be back in touch. Even though the day is grey and cold, and I am feeling under the weather, there is a tiny dancing light in my soul.
But, other than the deep wonder of this event, this morning’s message has underlined something of great importance to me.
The Global Village full of like-minded souls is something I have mentioned before – and I believe it is within our reach as a species, if we are able to set aside our Us and Them mentality, if we are willing to see the light in others rather than the darkness, and if we are brave enough to dispense with all outdated notions of authority and work together collaboratively.
In my ten-month journey as a blogger, and as a user of Facebook, I have met, and befriended, people from all over the world: the States, Brazil, the Netherlands, Israel, all over the UK – and, to me, it doesn’t matter where people come from; what matters is the connection; the recognition, at a deep level, of the silver umbilical cord linking us all together; the light – and the willingness to engage at a level beyond the shallow puddle so many of us spend too much of our precious time paddling in.
Most of the people I have a bond with are trying, in their own way, to bring humanity together; are questioning the divides we take for granted; are working towards multi-faith- and-gender tolerance, social parity, true equality for all human beings – and an acknowledgement that we, our landscape and its phenomenal diversity of denizens, are all in this together.