On being … addressed

By Ingrid Sapona

This week I decided to finally go through some of my oldest file boxes of paperwork. I was determined to finally get rid of files, notes, tax receipts, and other such things that I’ve kept for too long as it is. Among the items I came across were old address books. I had kept them all these years because I haven’t always been good about including full contact information in my digital address book, especially when it comes to entries for friends and family members. So, for example, if I was sending a get well card to a long-time friend, I’d have to consult my address book.

In the spirit of the cull, and yet realizing that there definitely were some addresses I still need, I decided it was time to input information from my address books into my digital address book. I knew the address books were old – but it wasn’t until I started looking at them that I realized how old they were. One of them, which was held together with a rubber band, dated back to university. I started the project thinking it would be a pretty straightforward task of data entry. While it was that, it was so much more.

First and foremost it was a trip down memory lane. Though I used to hate messing up my address book with crossed out entries and white out, seeing all the address changes I had for many of my friends reminded me of how much our lives have changed. It was fun to trace the phases of their lives as they moved from college, to graduate school, and through jobs that took them to different cities.

It was also sad to see names of people that have died over the years. Many of them were family friends who were contemporaries of my parents – but not all of them. A handful were my age. It was sobering to think that that list will only grow, and likely at a pace that’s more rapid than I like to think about.

A few names were startling in a very different way – folks that ended up in the news – but not for particularly good reasons. (Disbarment and jail, to mention a few transgressions I’ve heard about over the years.)

It was also a head scratcher, as there were more than a few names that I simply could not place. For some of them the address provided hints as to possible connections (for example, an Ohio address is likely someone I knew during law school). But even so, I’ll be darned if I can remember them. One set of entries that had me especially perplexed was the name and address of one girl and an accompanying entry for her parents. The thing is, I usually only made note of the addresses of parents of close friends. If it seems odd to you that I’d have the addresses of my friends’ parents – think again. After all, parents tended to stay put and they usually knew where their kids were, so one could at least try to keep in touch via their original home address.

The exercise also drove home how the internet has changed the way we behave. There were lots of entries of addresses for institutions and organization I had reason to contact periodically. (For example, I used to have to formally request an absentee ballot for every U.S. presidential election, so I had the address of the board of elections in my address book.) There’s certainly no reason to keep such information now because it’s so easy to find it on-line.   

One of the biggest surprises was realizing how many people I’ve completely lost touch with. So many names produced a flash of a face long forgotten (and, of course, frozen in time) and a flood of memories to go with it. With some of the names, like people I worked with briefly, I wasn’t surprised that our paths diverged. In other cases, I felt a sadness, as I guess I thought the bond we forged was stronger and that our relationship would be longer lasting.

When I finished the project of transitioning entries from my old address books to my digital one, I had to laugh at the coincidence of finally getting around to doing this and it being Thanksgiving time. What better time to think about and give thanks for people that have come into my life at one point or another, even if we’re no longer in touch – they all enriched my life in some way.   

© 2013 Ingrid Sapona


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