December 20, 2006
Now that my party is over I can turn to other tasks. In my Perfect Fantasy World I spend the next few days composing my Annual Holiday Letter, which goes to everyone who was invited to my party as well as to others. I enclose in the letter a separate and specific thank-you to people who brought gifts to the party. If it takes four hours to print, assemble, and address the party invitations, it takes half again as much time to send the Annual Holiday Letter. I like to date it on December 26, the Feast of Stephen, and mail it not more than a day or so after that, so I need to get busy.
This year I have an additional letter to compose. At the beginning of the month I alluded to the piece about John Miller written by Millersville University newspaper editor Dan Good in which he concludes that the founder of Millersville lies buried under the spot where I lived my last year at the school. More precisely, he lies under the spot where my roommate Barbara parked her car, a spot since dug up again and converted to a grassy knoll with a screened gazebo because, I think, there was a bit of a drainage problem.
When I attended Dan’s presentation at the Millersville Historical Society I helped myself to enough copies of the issue with the John Miller piece to send one to each of my seven roommates from that year. (The units had four bedrooms, two girls to a room, with two bathrooms but, as I recall, only six chairs at the dining table.)
I graduated in 1969. Since that time I have seen Jill once, I think, when she stayed at my house the night before a job interview in Harrisburg. I saw Kay and Barbara into the early 70s, but I do not recall inviting either of them to my first wedding in 1975. I was closer to those two than to the others, but even we drifted apart (Kay moved to Louisiana) and established very separate lives. I talked to Barbara on the phone in 1993, a fairly self-indulgent call when a piece of our shared history made a reappearance in my life and I wanted to tell her about it. She was gracious and lovely as always, but I didn’t do anything to follow up on that.
I have the 1980 and 1988 alumni directories, both of them certainly obsolete. The day I had lunch with Dan I stopped by the alumni office and borrowed the current directory to copy out the names. I was happy to be able to determine a current name and address for all of my old friends, even the ones who hadn’t listed themselves before. Kay is back in her hometown, a place I visit frequently for my Pennsylvania German research. I am assuming she was displaced by the hurricane. Barbara is using a different last name. She was a recent widow when I talked to her in 1993.
Yesterday I extracted the John Miller piece from each copy, folded them into manuscript envelopes, and addressed them all. Now I have only to compose the letter that goes with it.
And that’s where I’m stuck. Where do I start? “Hi, remember me? I remember you, with great affection, even though I haven’t bothered to keep in touch with you. I think of you often, and here is why. You were part of the best year of my life before now. I ate spaghetti off houndstooth-patterned Melmac plates with you. I killed milkweed bugs that came through the heating vents with you. I . . .”
Well, maybe I have begun.
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