Ernie, Eddy, Sheila and Libby at our high school reunions
I traveled across space and time to my high school reunion a couple of weeks ago. The school was gone. The people were both different and the same.
This is exactly what Eddy McBride discovers in One Red Thread. He learns a lot about the effects of time when he physically travels into the past. But he learns more by interacting with his family and friends in the present.
You can see how time works in the pictures on this page—yours truly today (a little weary and bleary at the reunion from my early morning flight halfway across the country) and in high school (bright eyed in senior year, ready to head out into that same world). The 17-year-old is still inside, but over the years, other personas have joined him. What you know about me depends on when you knew me.
In One Red Thread, Eddy considers how we perceive the past in different ways for different people. Here’s what he says about the two women in his life—his wife, Sheila, who he’s been with since college, and his best childhood pal, Libby, who has just returned home after living in a distant city:
It had been years since I’d been able to imagine the young woman I’d married. So much time had passed and changes had come so gradually that Sheila was always, well, she was always Sheila. … Sheila and all our years of incremental, cumulative, barely noticeable change did put me firmly in the present.
… Libby meant something else entirely. There were such huge gaps in my connection… that it was easy to imagine Libby as I’d seen her before … For better or worse, Libby took me straight back. With Libby, there had been no incremental change, so everything she did… brought back those days and a keen sense of the passage of time.
I wrote these passages six or seven years ago, but I rediscovered their truth at my reunion. When I found ongoing connections—as I did in a delightful conversation with a classmate who, like my wife, had been a special education teacher—the past and present merged. Then when talk turned to old school memories—football champs! Go Wildcats!—the reminiscing was loads of fun, but the passage of time was very obvious.
How would the characters in One Red Thread have handled their reunions? Libby would have jumped at the chance. Sheila would have resisted—but Eddy would have dragged her along anyway. (Tim, the fourth present-day character in my story, would have stayed home with a lonely drink, seriously avoiding anything that had gone before.)
As for me, I’m glad I went to my reunion. Because just like our individual histories, other peoples’ histories are around us every day—and it’s good to be reminded of that. To keep up the connections, we just need to keep up the conversations.