Facebook is a lovely invention. Yeah, I know, the code is clunky, the privacy level gets more and more questionable, and the chat function sucks like a Dyson. I forgive all of this, though, because Facebook is doing what a 12 year-old (and then 15 year-old) Amy didn’t think was possible: finding all those people we left.
We left Indiana when I was 12. My friends from there kept up letter writing for a surprisingly long time, and I ran up some seriously hellacious phone bills, but eventually people go about their lives and the letters slowly stop. It’s not that your friends don’t love you anymore; it’s just that you’re not there and there’s no promise of you being around ever again. If we kept up letter writing campaigns with everyone who ever moved away, we’d never get anything else done.
When we left Georgia, I was 15. Even more badass phone bills were run up (I think my record was 180 dollars) and countless numbers of letters were written. Many nights, I would be notified that mom and dad were going to bed while I was typing. “Time to shut it down,” they would say, and the loud, electric Smith-Corona would have to sleep for the night.
The internet didn’t exist yet. You kids have no idea how good you have it. You have instant communication with people in other countries. I just spent a lot of summers waiting for the mail to come. Sometimes, there would be huge manila envelopes filled with random things like balloons, action figures and homemade jigsaw puzzles. Sometimes just bills for mom and dad.
At 15, you type letters about what happened in school or what boy you have a crush on but will never, ever talk to. You don’t have the vocabulary to say what you mean. You can’t just write “oh my God, please help me” in red marker and mail it to someone. You don’t type letters about how lonely you are because it’s summer and you can’t even go to school to meet some people. You don’t type letters about how you feel like part of you lies strewn along the highway on Mont Eagle, glittering there like a shattered champagne glass. You think it in disjointed pictures, but you don’t type it.
When you are angry with your parents, your friends are all you have. Oh, God, was I angry with my parents.
That feeling of losing an entire group of the best friends I’d ever had never really went away. I didn’t think about it much, but every time I did, I pictured that glittering glass strewn along the highway. It was a wound that would never be healed. When you hit one of those, all you can do is try to learn something from it and use it to your advantage. It’s not going to go away. It becomes part of who you are, so you may as well have some sense and let it make you a better person somehow.
Now, in 2010, we have Facebook. The people I left are slowly finding me. It’s never going to be anything even close to the way it was, but it’s nice that they didn’t forget. Each time one finds me, one little piece of Mont Eagle highway glass gets picked up. A little piece of that wound gets fixed.
I have since driven that stretch of highway, addressing it like some old nemesis, looking for glass.
I never, ever forgot any of you.
I still have those letters.