Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Personal Flash Sideways

A funny thing happened today on the ol' Facebook. (Which, if you're reading this on FB as an imported note, you should click on the hyperlinked title to read the original Linda Without Borders blog post instead, for authenticity's sake.) I came across my first grade class photo. Most of you adoring fans know I grew up in Phoenix, but before we moved to Phoenix I actually lived in a tiny, tiny, tiny, TINY town in northern Arizona called Joseph City. I cannot emphasize enough the smallness of this town. I have been to many, many small towns across these United States in my day, and I am here to tell you that Joseph City is smaller. Seriously. SERiously.

Your small town has one stoplight? Joseph City has none. Your small town has one supermarket? Nope. We had to go to Holbrook, ten minutes down the interstate highway, to go to Safeway. You know where we went for things like doctors and other civilization? Winslow. That's right, Winslow, Arizona, where you may or may not find yourself standing on a corner. You thought Winslow was small, but that's because you blinked and you missed Joseph City. The "City" part of the name is a lofty unmet aspiration, or perhaps just a joke, sort of like the "Christian Right," which is usually neither.

The one thing that is in Joseph City - well, "in" in the sense that it's there within the same general several square miles area - is a power plant, where my dad the electrical engineer worked for a few years before joining the power company's offices in civilization/Phoenix, only making supervisory side trips to Joseph City once a in a while. There's pretty much not a whole lot of other reason for Joseph City to exist: there's the power plant, and the schools (power plant children), and the school teachers. And their children. And a church.

Anyhow, Joseph City is where I lived from age 2 to age 6, and I have many a fond memory of things like learning to ride a bike! And swimming lessons (in the high school pool)! And piano lessons, which I cried until my mom let me quit. And the wallpaper in my room, and the family room fireplace, and the playroom, and the carpet, all in the house that seems so huge in my memory but I know is really small, having checked it out when I did a Joseph City drive-by as an adult. And perhaps most memorable of all, attending first grade.

So you can imagine how strange it was today on Facebook to stumble upon the Mrs. Dare class photo. I have a copy of this photo somewhere, in the albums and archives in my parents' Arizona abodes, but I'm not sure exactly where, and I haven't looked at it in years. Stumbling across the photo was not the weirdest part, however. What was weird was seeing the tagged classmates. There were the girls who were my "best friends" in first grade, as I recall. There were the boys whose parents were friends with my parents, whose siblings were in my sister's class, and so on. There were the familiar litany of last names because it was, after all, a very small town, and most families' names were pretty well known to most of us other families.

Because I moved away, I moved into a new world. I wrote to people for a while, I think - maybe a letter or two to Charity, and Jenny, but really, think about it. I was in second grade when I left. I grew up elsewhere, without them. More to the point, they grew up without me.

So what was weird about seeing the photo was not so much just seeing the names and profiles of my first grade classmates from the tiniest town in the universe who have now become adults, but rather, seeing them as Facebook friends with one another, and seeing their comments on the 1st grade class photo that Norene had posted, comments about their memories, and comments identifying some of the unknowns in the photo, and comments such as Jenny's "It is so fun to see those old pics of everyone. I really enjoyed growing up with all of you." What was weird was seeing that before I came across it today, the people with Facebook profiles were tagged, and the others were for the most part named, but with a few uncertainties, and I (being the shortest person in my elementary school classes- always!) was the first one in the first row listed as "Linda Napakowski????"

I guess now I am no longer a question mark - I added the picture poster as a friend, as well as a couple of others, and commented on the photo, and extended my Facebook greetings. I am genuinely excited to hear what happened to these 1st grade classmates of mine. But seeing "Joseph City High School" in their profile info, and seeing a 1992 Sea World trip photo posted alongside the 1st and 2nd grade class photos, it really hit me that when we moved away, I moved out of one life place and timeline and into another.

What if my dad had kept working at the power plant instead of becoming a senior electrical engineer in Phoenix? (I'm not actually clear on the hierarchy of these things--maybe that would have been undesirable if not impossible in his career track.) What if we had stayed there? What if I had attended that high school which in my mind is associated solely with swimming lessons during the summer? What if I had not spent my teen years galavanting around the malls of Phoenix and eating at Valle Luna and cruising under the "gothic" lights of Glendale? What would I have been doing with these Joseph City classmates if I had stayed there? Would I have been on the JCHS volleyball team? (Is there a volleyball team? I think there is.) Would I have been active in youth group at the church? Would I have gone joy riding into Winslow, in a flatbed Ford or otherwise?

Maybe I've just been watching too much the perfect amount of Lost lately, but the notion of an alternate life timeline hit me hard, in finding my 1st grade Joseph City cohorts on Facebook. And it was nice to contemplate. And it made me happy to think that I can sort of see, now, what they have been up to, and we can all see what we have become.

"Getting close, still it seems so far away
Moving close, things still seem so far away..."
--from 'These Days' by The Jesus and Mary Chain'
to which I am listening right now, and which seemed perfectly fitting

1 comment:

Megan said...

Great, great post. It's something I've thought of a lot, as well, given the moving around that we did when I was around that same age. It's fascinating, and I loved reading about your sort of thought experiment about it.