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February 6, 2011

Away With Discrepancies

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The Temperance Union of Prentiss Hall

When I was at Whitman College in Walla Walla (not Spokane, that’s Whitworth) I was part of a recurring act called the Temperance Union.  Four of us donned the frumpiest outfits we could put together and performed “Away with Rum” to whoever would listen:

We’re coming, we’re coming, our brave little band,

On the right side of temperance we do take our stand.

We don’t chew tobacco because we do think

That the people who use it are likely to drink.

One of the quartet was Debi.  After college she married a townie and got to live happily ever after in Walla Walla, one of the loveliest towns in America. Debi is an attorney now but when I knew her, we called her Putzer.  I thought it might be nice to add that information to her firm’s Facebook page but she says not.

Anyway Putzer is the shortest one in the Temperance Union line-up, her face obscured by her arm: the future attorney already cognizant of liability issues.  Mary-Ellis who I’ve written about:  www.elenalouiserichmond.com/2010/11/doin-our-stuff/  is the one on the end playing the ukulele. I am the one who looks the most like my mother.

Putzer, who for liability reasons shall now be called Debi, and I were out of touch for nearly 30 years.  We saw each other at a few re-unions, but there wasn’t even the odd Christmas card between us until I started using Facebook as part of my shameless self-promotion of my writing.  That’s how we got re-connected and how I found out that I bicycled by her house every time I visited Walla Walla.  I found out that because her son lives in Seattle, she probably knows downtown and the bus system better than I do.

Debi spent a night with me this week.  She is definitely on my short list of people to be marooned on an island with.  There was never a lull, always something to talk about and lots of laughter.  I’d forgotten how quick and wry her humor is and how much it meshes with mine.

It’s disorienting when someone remembers something I’d forgotten, especially because I pride myself on my memory.  I do not remember catching my ring on a hayride wagon (a hayride?) and ending up in the emergency room with a swollen finger.  But it also reminds me how interconnected we are, even when it’s been 30 years.

I hear the word “connection” a lot when people talk about friends and family. That covers a lot of images.  There’s the spark of recognition, or compatibility; or the frisson of sexual attraction.  The connection I felt this week was of past to present and (I hope) reaching ahead to the future.

Debi was an implant from a world I used to know into the world in which I now live.  When she walked into my house she brought some kind of integration.  I am the still the person I was as well as being the person I am.  When a long-time student walked in and Debi and I were in the middle of a rendition of “It’s cheese that makes the mice go round,” he didn’t bat an eye.

Psychoanalysis has taught me that the mind is not discrete, and it’s not static. There is really no such thing as a “type.”  In the final analysis (no pun intended), we are all “that type;” we are all human.  And we are influenced by each other whether we care to admit that or not. We have many more feeling states than we sometimes allow are there.  We all have backrooms in our minds, memories and experiences.   When the doors swing open, we can be caught by a rancid odor or by delight.

In “Discrepancies,” the poet, Stephen Dunn, says:

“.  .  .  I’ve tried

to become someone else for a while,

only to discover that he, too, was me.”

If I ever thought I had become someone else, Debi’s re-entry into my life reminded me that I am still all the persons I have always been.  That’s both comforting and humbling.

And now I need to put the rum bottles in the re-cycling.

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