And then, as soon as you hit send, you realize that there’s no reason why she should remember you 20 years later and that maybe she doesn’t really want to be contacted by former students because, well, because you’re not the center of everyone’s life, and shouldn’t it be enough that she gave the best years of her life teaching insecure teenagers without having to deal with them as adults (with or without insecurities)?
Yeah, Facebook is cool and awkward like that.
BUT here’s how it all turned out: Mrs Blanche remembered who I was (it couldn’t have hurt that there’s a trove of information about me in my Facebook profile) and responded saying that she was, at that very moment, in Washington, DC, visiting her daughter (who works at the Smithsonian) and grandchildren. Not only that, but when I suggested meeting for lunch, she accepted.
And so today I sat down for lunch at a French bakery in Washington, DC, with the woman who taught my 7th and 8th grade band classes back in po-dunk La Grande, Oregon, all those years ago. She asked about everyone in my family, especially Heather and Ashley, both of whom had also been in her classes. And, despite the fact that she’s been living in Wisconsin, she was able to give me news about other favorite people from La Grande with whom I lost touch years ago. It was fun to catch up and see how the years have passed.
It was a little strange, though, to see just how much she knew of me, based on my Facebook profile (I speak French; traveled to Vietnam; am a lawyer), and also what large gaps still existed (I didn’t go to BYU; I haven’t played the bassoon in years; I’m single). Catching up with people in this social media era doesn’t feel as organic and linear as it used to feel.
It was also strange to see how in some ways the roles had switched. When I knew her as a student, she was the more experienced adult. Now, though I’m still younger and less experienced in some ways, I’ve traveled the world and seen and done things that, at least as far as I can tell based on today’s conversation, she’s never done: She’s visited Paris only once. She’s been to a major opera company (in Chicago) only a handful of times in the past 20 years; never to the Met Opera in New York. I don’t judge her for that — our paths have been different — but there’s a bittersweet quality to the realization that, while she helped me into the world of music and the performing arts, I’ve explored corners of that world that haven’t been available to her. It makes me want to bring her more into my world when she comes back to DC in the future. And perhaps I will — she said she comes five or six times a year, so maybe we’ll be able to go out to the theatre or see an opera or ballet. That would be fun.
P.S. What’s really weird is that this is not the first time I’ve met one of my teachers from La Grande in DC. Years ago I ran into my sixth grade teacher in the sculpture garden at the Hirschorn museum. Just goes to show that this world is not so big after all. That and there’s a correlation between the fact that the people I liked in La Grande are also the people who are likely to turn up in interesting places outside of La Grande.