November 10, 2006
A friend of mine has been working with some of her high school classmates to prepare forÂ a milestoneÂ reunion. They’ve set up an electronic discussion list and have been collecting memories and tracking down members whose whereabouts have fallen off the official record. I did the same thing for my fortieth and had great fun.
Today my friend received an anonymous letter in the postal mail. It bears a regional postmark so it’s hard to tell where it came from. It’s printed in block letters (all caps), like a ransom note or a tip toÂ authorities about a scandal. It calls her out for being bossy, and accuses her of using other people’s recollections to develop a program she can take credit for.
My friend is upset, of course. Anonymous mail is pretty creepy. You have to know where a person lives in order to send it. It’s likeÂ your tormentorÂ can reach out and touch you but you can’t touch back. But what really puzzles her is how someone could hold a grudge for more than fifty years.
When I worked with some classmates to put together our last reunion, we started byÂ bringing our yearbooks to the table. I always liked to show the page where one of the more popular boys had written “To one hell of a girl” across his picture. I cherished that since the moment he wrote it at our last Saturday night dance before graduation. Looking over my friends’ books, I learned that he’d apparently written that in everybody’s! When I mentioned this to him (lovingly), he pointed out that the secondÂ sentence said, “Like your poems and you.” He then proceeded to recall the content (if not the actual words) of two poems of mine that had appeared in our literary magazine, thus redeeming himself.
But it was also at one of those sessions that I noticed a signature that I couldn’t remember having read before, or reading in the way it was possibly meant. It was from a girl who had been part of the crowd I ate lunch with, a girl I didn’t know particularly well but whom I can’t recall having any animosity toward. She’d started with “Thank you for inviting me to your party . . . ” but then went on to note that she knows it was only because she was close friends with someone whose brother she thought I wanted to impress. There were some more remarks that, on reading them forty years later, seemed to have a certain sarcastic edge. And it ended with a reference to my being one of a popular teacher’s pets.
In all these years I haven’t had any further contact with this girl. She’s not listed in our all-class alumni directory (but her brother is), nor is she on the list of people who actually came to the reunion we planned. I wonder tonight about the depth of anger that would have led her to write that in someone’s yearbook on an occasion that I remember as being filled with joy. I wonder what, if anything, I wrote in her book.
I hope she is well and happy. And I hope she’s not still holding a grudge.
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