You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?
It was the morning before the 50 year class re-union, and I was sitting in the coffee shop in my hotel sipping a cup of coffee. I’d nearly reached my limit — I could tell because I was starting to bet jumpy — or maybe it was just sleeping less soundly in a different bed. I’d returned to the town where I grew up and had driven around yesterday afternoon trying to spot old familiar places amidst all the newer suburban growth.
I’d stopped by my house, too, and I was so surprised: I’d remembered how much bigger it had been when I was younger. Well, I guess it just seemed bigger as did the home of my best friend across the street. The yard was still as big though — one full acre of grass, but instead of a soybean field behind it, stood a cluster of upscale homes.
As I drove down the street I was saddened to see that the creek we used to play in was gone — a culvert presumably under a raised interstate highway crossing MY street! The traffic was heavier, too; it was just the density of the population and expanding of the suburban neighborhoods. When I was a child we lived on the furthest outskirts west of Cleveland. It was country beyond our town. All that had changed as it does in so many communities.
I sat in my own world mulling memories over as I sat drinking the last of my coffee — progress is universal, even if sometimes unwelcome. I looked up as a shadow came between me and the big glass windows. A man, mid-sixties was standing there. “I’m sorry if I startled you,” he said. “What your name?”
I replied without thinking, “Jean Ferguson. Why do you ask? Do I know you?”
“Oh, I’ve been looking for you. I saw your name on the list of attendees. I’m Larry Schneider. I’m pleased to say I recognize you. You look so much like you did in high school.” Not only had I gone to high school with Larry, but we had been in a Lutheran Elementary School together for years. I felt guilty, but I didn’t recognize him at all. Do men change more than women? He’d been on the small size, and still wasn’t more than 5’8″ or 5’9″, and a bit on the heavy side, perhaps 200 lbs. He still had kind of a mischievous smile and twinkling eyes — he was the class clown in elementary school, and got into plenty of trouble for it. In high school our paths crossed less.
“My goodness, Larry, I afraid I didn’t recognize you,” I said. “I assume you’re here for the reunion. It’s the only one I’ve ever attended, but it seems like I should make the effort for such a milestone.”
“Yeah, me too,” he said. “Mind if I join you for a few minutes before my wife comes down? I told her I’d have a cup of coffee and give her a little more time to get ready. We’re having lunch with my brother; do you remember him?”
“John, right?” I ventured.
“Good memory. He’s never left the old neighborhood. Would you like another cup of coffee?” he asked.
“Sure,” I accepted. “But make mine a decaf. Otherwise I’ll be bouncing off the walls. Guess I’d better save that for the party tonight, right?”