Saturday, May 06, 2006


I've been thinking about people I was close to years ago, and with the aid of modern technology have googled a few of them, just to see what pops up. As a test, I started with my family. All of us bookworms, we each come up with our publishing credentials. Even a short editorial comment my father submitted to the New York Times years ago comes up with a link to the text itself. The colorful covers of the books my sister and I have written come up on, along with the gratifying "More books by...." link. Turns out my brother, who is on the periphery of family life these days, isn't editing the law journal he helped found a number of years ago. And my mother, unforgettable in her private life, yet pathologically fearful of the public spotlight, shows up not at all. Not even her obituary.

By contrast, a once dear friend from my teen years pops up all over the Internet. Not in the field she originally aspired to, but in another, where her extreme extroversion flourishes. The love of my life, the one who broke my heart, shows up on the roster of the ski team that shaped her early adult life. Alas, no photo to highlight her dark good looks. Police detectives I once knew through social connections are quoted in local newspapers and court documents; former professors show up on university faculty rosters or on the covers of articles and books they've written; one fellow, who had the starring role in all the high school theater productions, is splashed all over the electronic entertainment world, having risen to stardom on a highly successful television drama.

And then there are those, who, like my mother, don't show up at all or who, more humorously, share the name of prominent contributors in various fields of endeavor. A social worker shows up as a diversity organizer, a retired cop pops up as a prominent breast surgeon, another friend with athletic skills shows up as a Swiss filmmaker.

I've heard tales of people reconnecting to long lost friends through google searches. It's tempting, but I prefer to leave the past in cyberspace, where I can touch it from a safe distance if I choose and rely on memory for the rest.