Monday, December 12, 2011

Reconnecting with the Past

I'm back from my whirlwind trip this past weekend to Maryland to attend the party to honor Carroll Linkins, who just retired after serving for thirty years as the secretary and "den mother" for the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

"What brings you back here?" several people asked me at the party, knowing that I had moved twenty years ago to Colorado, and maybe also knowing that I'm now living in Indiana. They thought that I must have had a business trip of some kind to the Washington, D.C., area that coincided fortunately with the date of Carroll's celebration, which doubled as an Institute reunion.

"This party!" I told them. "This is why I came back: to go to the party!"

It was so wonderful to be there, seeing the people I had worked with in my decade as the Institute's editor and staff writer, from 1980-1990. We all exclaimed over how much we all looked just the same. But then we looked at the pictures in the Institute's treasured photo albums - pictures of Christmas parties, summer picnics, wedding showers, baby showers. Oh, we were young then, impossibly young. It was almost heartbreaking to see how young we were, especially for those of us who were pictured with people to whom we are no longer married, or holding babies who grew up to have sorrows of their own. And we took so many more photos that night, too, to be the final chapter in our time together, for we knew that this was the last time we would ever be together in this way. Carroll was the last person left at the Institute. The Institute itself, at least as a part of the University of Maryland, is no more.

On the plane home, I was reading The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat. She writes, "Father Romain always made much of our being from the same place, just as Sebastien did. Most people here did. It was a way of being joined to your old life through the presence of another person."

That's how I felt on Saturday night: joined to my old life through the presence of all these beloved people, and so joined more to my self. I felt more truly me, more truly who I am. Faulkner is often quoted as saying, "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." It wasn't past for me this weekend, and yet it was - both eternally present and irrevocably vanished.

I'm so glad I flew a thousand miles to go to that one party. Why was I there? Because it was where I once belonged, and still belong, and will always belong.

No comments:

Post a Comment