Monday, December 17, 2012

In Search of Lost Friendship

If you have been following me on Facebook or Twitter this long weekend, you know that I have been in Florida visiting a friend from forty years ago. As of eleven o’clock this morning, I was home again north of Boston.

In my posts from Florida, I referred to this dear old friend as The White Rabbit. Of course, this is a character from Alice in Wonderland, and a song by Jefferson Airplane. The handle was not given in vain.

When we were freshmen together—one a spoiled private-school boy from Connecticut, the other an honest-as-the-day-is-long public school lad from Michigan—the white knight did a certain amount of talking backwards, and the red queen was off with her head.

And the White Rabbit and I fed our heads. 

If these references are obscure, let’s pause for a cultural moment.

The White Rabbit is now a professor of religion at a large American university. Like me he has become a Catholic in his postcollegiate years. So even without a shared and complicated past, we would already have plenty to talk about.

We didn’t see each other for 36 years—from 1973 to 2009. Three years ago, I googled his (real) name and the place I thought he was teaching and had his e-mail address in about 3.5 seconds. Within one round of messages, we had disclosed things to each other we never discussed in the 1969–1973 span that represented our college careers.

It was revelatory.

The revelations continue. Prior to our weekend get-together at his home—where I was introduced to the drug that is NFL Red Zone and we played glow-in-the-dark-frisbee with his eleven-year-old fantasy-football-crazed son—I sent him draft chapters of the memoir I am working on. (In the fragment linked here, The White Rabbit goes by another handle: “Larry McAllister.”)

For his part, TWR/LMcA sent me PDF copies of his 300-page journal written during freshman and sophomore years, when we were both chasing the gleam of alternative spiritualities. In fact, it was TWR who led me down that particular rabbit hole in 1970. He found his way to the Catholic Church by the mid-1970s. A slow learner, I took considerably longer—received into the Church in 2008.

For many years, I have fantasized about looking up my classmates from boarding school or college and writing a book about what they’ve done with their lives. Now instead, I am writing my own “investigative memoir.” And enjoying one-on-one reunions with characters like the White Rabbit.

It’s all very cool.

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