I was surfing the morning news with a bowl of steaming steel-cut oats and fresh brewed Just Java coffee (direct from Palm Desert) when I scrolled through an obituary for forty-seven-year-old filmmaker George Hickenlooper.  Four years younger than me, he died of a heart attack in his sleep. I didn’t know his name, but I knew his movies:  Heart of Darkness and Factory Girl are two.

Mid-way through the tribute the author of the obituary quoted a friend:

“We were kind of like the outcast, arty, new wave kids at the school…

we had our own cafeteria table we hung out at.”

I sat the coffee down and stopped reading.

We had our own cafeteria table we hung out at.”

I can see their faces – my friends during my junior year in high school.  I know exactly where our table was – closest to the doors, to the left of the vending machines filled with twenty-five cent Butterscotch Tasty-kakes.  I can see my best friends and the ‘bit players’, too.  I see them all.  I hear the clatter of plastic trays, the echo of shouts and laughter.  I can even smell the overcooked gruel from the industrial kitchen.  I was one year younger than my friends, arty and lacking the familial stability of the rest of the gang but still, looking back, we were smart and pretty and only one or two tiers down from the “it” group, sandwiched somewhere between the cheerleaders and the brainiacs and miles away from the Audio Visual (AV) geeks.

The friends at my cafeteria table.

Who sat at your cafeteria table?

Maybe it’s a bit early to reminisce about the year.  After all, we still have to navigate my birthday, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yet I can’t help but feel that 2010 – and all its fabulousness – is winding down.

This year, for me, has been about turning pages and beginning new chapters.  Reunions and reconciliations.  I’ve reconnected – face to face, not via the Internet – with all but two of the major pre-Ireland people in my life (and if anyone wants to send me a ticket to Grand Rapids before the end of December I won’t turn them down…).

This wasn’t my intention.  I mean, I didn’t wake up on January 1, 2010 and say to myself “It’s time to track down Beckie, Patty, Donna, Stacy, Mike, Dana, Anya and Mom.”  I didn’t think that at all.  It was more like the Universe took hold of my hand and whispered, “Mimm, I’ve got some people I’d like you to meet.”

Direct from the Cork & Cue Lounge in Nebraska

And each embrace was like fitting another piece of the puzzle together.

And now, nearing the end of my ‘magical year’, I feel I have a history that goes back further than 1994, the year I moved to Dublin.

Re-establishing relationships with friends and families has made me a part of something. I’m a part of someone else’s story.  I’m remembered.  And I remember, too. I remember you, and I remember parts of me I’d forgotten. It’s been nice getting to know her again.  To everyone I met again this year – thank you.

And now I’ll ask again.  Who sat at your cafeteria table?

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