I’m looking for my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Bodkin. Thirty years ago, Ms. Bodkin introduced me to “A Wrinkle In Time,” encouraged my interest in robotics, and took the entire class to a Christmas tree festival in a neighboring town. I remember her as a slight, silver-haired, elegant lady. In the small town in which I grew up, news about most folks is not hard to come by, and I still delight on the rare occasions I run into my first grade teacher, Mrs. Jenkins. Still, Ms. Bodkin has eluded me, and I’m left to wonder if, like the characters in “A Wrinkle In Time,” she now travels the dimensions of the universe via a magical tesseract, lost to us mortals left behind.
I could launch an exhaustive online search. Past searches yielded my 6th grade teacher, enjoying retirement in a knitting club in a lake-side community after all. With social media, it seems like you can find almost anyone, almost anytime. Or at least you can find the version of them they present to the world online. And I guess that’s the problem. I may be able to find where she lives, see a picture of her traveling the Grand Canyon with her family, and find out how frustrated she is with her seasonal allergies, but it wouldn’t be her, but, rather, a carefully curated version of her. A digital avatar, at best. It would lack the intimacy of those post-lunch reading sessions, gathered around her rocking chair. It wouldn’t be a reconnection, but,rather, just a voyeuristic look into a two-dimensional world instead of sharing the real one.
I recently came across a gay couple on social media that I’ve lost touch with and discovered they had adopted a child. My jaw dropped upon learning the news, as this couple was deeply closeted when I knew them years ago and never expressed any desire to have a child. Now, years after our orbits transited to other suns, I’m left with this interesting and wonderful news, but no context in which to place it. Of course, I could reach out, reconnect, and work hard to rebuild those bridges, but, then again, there’s a reason those bridges faded in the first place. And maybe it’s okay to honor that too.
Our past sets itself in amber as the years fly by. If we’re lucky, most of those frozen memories are happy ones, and it can be tempting to travel back in time — tesseract or no — and want to fill in the gaps, find out the next chapter, and revisit those wonderful people and places that populate our own story. Technology has made it easier than ever. But before we all go chasing ghosts, maybe we have to ask if the past is better left alone. Maybe there’s a reason time only marches in one direction. Maybe letting go of people, places, and things is the only way we have the capacity to learn and grow. Maybe a little mystery never hurt anyone.
Maybe, just maybe, Ms. Bodkin, in her chair reading me wonderful books, is right where she belongs.