It’s not that I don’t remember anyone or anything from high school. The problem is that I remember my fabulous 80’s wardrobe better than I remember the names and faces of my classmates. I remember old boyfriends (mostly because of the heartbreak associated with them); I remember a few best friends (just not why we stopped being best friends); and I remember a couple of characters who left emotional graffiti on my walls. Part of the reason that I choose not to attend my high school reunions is that I am pretty sure I wouldn’t know anyone there.
It is not that I choose to have selective memories either. Yes, there are some snatches that creep around on the periphery of memory that I quash because they are too horrifyingly embarrassing to allow to surface. But for the most part the problem is that my mind, I am sure, resembles a wad of gauze bandage more than something substantial and organic. Because I was nothing if not fashionable in the 80’s, I had a cocaine habit to match my platinum hair and pointed toe white leather ankle boots. And while I was busy looking glamorous with a spoon up my nose and a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, the cocaine was busy randomly chewing up pieces of my history, leaving gaps in my long-term memory where names and faces of friends used to reside.
For years Parrish was always the directory assistance of my high school memories. She was good at prodding me with a stick and eventually she could tease out a vague recollection of an event that I could tie to a person and resurrect them just a little. When I couldn’t recall, she would bear witness to my memories for me. Although, sometimes, I wished she’d forgotten some of the gorier details.
Even at the end of her life when the tumor had taken away most of her English vocabulary, she was still my go-to person for help remembering who was who. With her oldest girlfriends gathered around we reminisced about a trip we’d taken to Palm Springs in ’83 . I remembered going with a big group of teens (and my mother) and I remembered my white lipstick and nail polish, but it was Parrish who remembered the cast of characters we had in tow.
Palm Springs '83
With all this, one can well imagine what a nightmare her memorial service was for me. Not just because 250 people were gathered there to mourn and remember my sister, but because she was not there to identify the myriad of people who came up to me to pay their condolences. On that day I relied on Jim, my Jr. High sweetheart, and a few of Parrish’s high school girlfriends with whom I was reacquainted at the end of her life, tugging at their sleeves and whispering “Who was that?” in their ears.
I am frequently jealous when I log-in to Facebook and see that people are friends with new people. Sometimes I vaguely recall a name and I want to be their friend too – only I don’t know if I actually ever knew them or if they were just a legendary figure in high school. 25 years later and I’m still not sure if I was in the clique with the popular kids!
Sometimes I will get an email saying that someone wants to be my friend, and that throws me into a panic. “Do I know you? Why do I know you?” I want to ask, but that would just be rude as they clearly remember me. I have occasionally tugged on Jim’s sleeve again by email and he’s tried to explain people in context, but while we have had many shared experiences over the decades, he has never bothered to keep track of who I liked/loved/hated/slept with.
Who knew that a simple website would cause me so much grief and give me yet another reason to miss my sister.
Parrish and Me circa '81