It’s been sixteen years since we bought our first computer. It was a splurge for our tenth anniversary.
Computers have come a long way in the last sixteen years… more accommodating and totally integral.
The first thing I did with our new ‘toy’ was google my name. (Who is surprised?) That seems like forever ago! We were still in Boulder Hill and I’m pretty sure it predates the term ‘google.’ I did an online search of Mary Lamphere and then Mary White (my maiden name). Not so much with the former, but I hit the jackpot with the latter. My previous experiences with others who shared my name included a made for TV movie titled Mary White, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076371/, and a Mary White from Electric, Illinois who won a Tiger Beat Magazine contest. The prize was a lock of Robert Hegyes hair– Juan Epstein of Welcome Back Kotter. (Seriously? Yes.)
I contacted a few of the Mary’s listed, explaining who I was and how I’d found them. AOL made it very easy (except for the dial-up, of course). Only one got back to me. Her maiden name was also Mary White. Her middle name was part of her screen name, I think she’d have gotten a kick out of Mary Fran(says).
Mary lived in Houston, was well-educated and retired from an impressive career. She’d struggled with raising three kids as a single mother but now her children were grown and successful in their own right and she was married to a wonderful man. She collected Beanie Babies and loved to read, write, paint and take pictures.
I have always been a letter writer/mail sender who had several pen pals growing up, but computers changed the pen pal game. Now you could exchange letters on the same day! In the same minute, like a conversation—even better because you could include images and links.
We were friends for ten years. In that time, my family and I moved to DeKalb, Nicole went to NZ, Zach played hundreds of baseball games (with almost as many hair colors/styles), and I finished the degree I’d begun in 1984 at NIU. (I loved sharing all of my “Mary” related projects with her.) Mary’s son got married, had two children with interesting names (over which we had many a discussion), her step-daughter was in the North Tower on September 11th and survived. We experienced two elections, she a liberal in a Republican state, me a conservative in a Democratic state. We both went through home improvement jobs, sharing the frustrations and complications and eventual completions.
We were both born in October. Her anniversary was the same as my mother’s birthday, her mother died on my Gram Fran’s birthday. Two of her three children shared birthdays with my two children. I’m not really into astrology, etc, but isn’t that kind of weird?
Mary was more than a friend, she was a mentor. She offered a wealth of information, opinion, creativity and guidance. In ten years we exchanged ideas, jokes, excitement, disappointments, gifts, cards, and many, many e-mails.
When her husband was very sick and in the hospital, I told Dave that if he passed I wanted to fly to Houston to be with her. Thankfully her husband recovered; I didn’t really want our first in-person meeting to be under those circumstances.
You can imagine my surprise and heartbreak the day her husband called me.
I think of her often. Sometimes I wish I had saved all of our exchanges, but five or so computers (and email accounts) later, I’m not sure if that’s even possible. I still have the “Friends are the Best Present” accent pillow and Texas Beanie Baby she sent me. And with these additional built-in reminders (my anniversary, that first computer… our name), hers is a memory well held.
It amazes me to think how much I miss her, how much we shared, how close we got, without ever coming into physical contact, without ever “meeting.”
Just goes to show you the power of the Internet.
The power of words on a screen.