Thursday, July 29, 2010

Friends Today

My Aunt Susie, who is 95, has lived her entire life in Waycross, Georgia. She never married, working as a typesetter for the Waycross Journal Herald for forty years. Aunt Susie was, and is, a reticent soul, almost dysfunctional socially, but she was the only grownup I ever knew who had a pen pal, and Susie’s pen pal was from Holland! As a child, I couldn’t imagine having a friend who was from a place so far away. And get this, Susie actually traveled to the Netherlands one time to meet her friend in person! Keep in mind this was in the late 1950’s when people just didn’t travel like they do now, at least not people who lived in Waycross. After she got back, when asked about her trip, she said it was “nice.”

Fast forward 50 years. When I started blogging six months ago, it was mostly to entertain myself and my more tolerant friends with my views on life, and to have a place to store my memories for my kids and grandkids. Little did I know I would become the Aunt Susie of my generation as I began to interact with people all over the world. I submitted a couple of my stories to a site called The Elder Storytelling Place, and, before I knew it, I had a small gaggle of greathearted friends who supported my efforts at writing just as I began to do the same for them. I now have a friend who lives in England, another from Scotland, another who lives her life in Newfoundland, and one who spent many years in Israel. And I've gotten to know folks who live all over the good old USA, north, south, east, and west, all people whom I consider to be friends although we’ve never met face to face.

One of those friends is Mary B. Summerlin, who was my first blogging cyber buddy. We first conversed about one of her stories in which she told of growing up on a farm in South Carolina. She mentioned that her grandfather’s last name was McGee. I too have a passel of McGees hanging from my family tree so I wrote something in the comments section of the blog and soon heard back from her. We haven't figured out yet if we are related or not, but the point has became somewhat moot as we've turned into fast friends. Although Mary is from Poughkeepsie, New York, her family home is in Starr, South Carolina, a mere 100 miles from Atlanta. As we were getting to know each other, we also discovered that we are both divorced, and both teachers. We are also mothers and grandmothers, and we have similar perspectives on the ways of the world.

What has been even better for me is that Mary has a few years on me, so I get to see her as a mentor and guide as I feel my way forward in life. I think, deep down, I would like to
be Mary one day, retired from full-time work, but still engaged and busy, full of energy and questions and plans and projects.

Just the other day, I was able to feel what Aunt Susie must have felt all those years ago as she made her way from Waycross to Amsterdam, although I had only to drive to Starr, South Carolina. That's where I had the chance to meet my new old friend, Mary B. Summerlin, when she was visiting her family farm, which is now run by her brother and his family.

I have to say my kids thought I was a little bit crazy when I told them I was going to meet my online friend in a place called Starr, South Carolina. I think they thought I'd accidentally happened upon an over-the-hill same-sex dating site. And I'm
sure Mary's family was wondering why this total stranger from Atlanta was stopping by their house and generally getting in their way on a hot summer's morning when they had other things to do.

But Mary and I had very few qualms and it took no time at all for us to warm up to each other since we were already friends. We toured the house (much to her sister-in-law's tolerant dismay) and talked about writing and storytelling, as Mary is a powerful storyteller and I’m a fledgling writer. Mary told me about her childhood in that very house, and her memories brought back my own memories of my childhood home, very much like Mary's, where I lived until I was four and where my Aunt Susie grew up before she ever even thought about traveling to Holland.

Mary's childhood home in Starr, South Carolina

Marcia's childhood home in Waycross, Georgia
both were built by a man named McGee

The very best part of my visit was riding on the tailgate of Mary’s brother’s truck while we toured the farm. I felt just like a kid again, holding on for dear life to the back of that truck, as we retraced the steps she took as a child. I already knew a good bit about Mary's childhood through her writing and storytelling. I knew of the Big Gully and had an idea of where Laura Francis had lived, but on that very special day I was able to see those places in person with my friend, Mary, who, although she lives far away, has so much in common with me.

I know people are opining that the internet is making us all antisocial and isolated, but without exploring cyberspace I would have never met Mary or my other blogging friends around the world. So, I don't feel isolated at all. In fact, I feel as if my circle of friends has expanded exponentially and I've learned that people who are far away can feel quite close.

Maybe that's what Aunt Susie was trying to tell me when she said her trip was "nice."


oklhdan said...

As always a great story! I hope to have time someday to meet the people I've grown so fond of on the internet!

marciamayo said...

Dani, thanks. I'm heading your way one day.

Olga said...

Great story. I was listening to someone opine on VPR that the internet could not be considered a community because it wasn't a place, but a meeting like yours and Mary's gives it a place in my mind.
The old south houses are really beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Marcia, I didn't know that you are from that neck of the parents grew up in Jesup and Baxley and I can remember fondly going to the "big" city of Waycross with my granny to go shopping downtown when we would go to visit Baxley. What a wonderful story you shared-beautiful houses and an even better friendship!
Karen Young

Grandmother Crone said...

Marcia, what a wonderful, touching story and so beautifully written. I just had a mind-picture of you opening your car door and starting the engine on your way to such a grand adventure. I almost felt I was right there on the farm. Mary looks like such a good hugger. Through your writings it's so easy to see that you have an open heart for friends to find a place to sit comfortably. What fun! What a way to fill your heart. Both homes look palatial to me. I love to read your writings. Oh, and may I assume I the friend who lived many years in Israel?

Anonymous said...

Oh Marcia! What a beautiful job you did describing our magical day and friendship. The comparisons of our lives are amazing but the real treasure is that both of us were open to possibilities. Thank you for participating in our farm life that day with such zest. By the way, it is Starr (two r's). Mary B

Friko said...

I feel like that too. I have got to 'know' a number of other bloggers with whom I seem to have quite a bit in common. We are now emailing occasionally, with some I telephone via Skype and some I have met.

When i started out I wasn't looking for friendship so much as interesting contacts and a place to offload memories and thoughts. I never thought that blogging would lead to broadening horizons and having fun.

happy blogging!
from a friend in England.

marciamayo said...

Paula, you are my friend with ties to Israel and Friko, you are my friend of England. Mary, at least I got Poughkeepsie right!

Dianne said...

This post is wonderful. I felt like I need to stop in and see Mary when I go to SC training. Do you think she would meet me if I told her of our relationship? Sisternlaw now old friend....

marciamayo said...

Yeah, Mary let me in so she'd certainly unlock the door for you. The bad news is that she's heading back to Poughkeepsie. If you do training in NY, I'll warn her.

marciamayo said...

Karen, I should have pegged you for a South Georgia girl.

Night Monkey said...

What a great story! I have met people virtually and then adventured to meet them live, too, so I know the joy you are feeling. I did it almost a decade ago though. A friend at home said I was like an astronaut braving the peripheries of cyberspace and it made me feel so proud of myself I thought I'd burst! HA!

The internet is the most exciting surprise and I never thought, initially, that it was going to open up my world as it did, either. You tell a story amazingly well BTW, Marcia. You'd do your Aunt Susie proud, no doubt.

marciamayo said...

Cile, I would have never met you without the WWW and that would have been an absolute shame.

Jean said...

This is a neat story, and you are such a good writer. If you ask me, the two houses were built by the same McGee! Just look at the similarities. I haven't ridden on the tailgate of a truck while exploring a farm in years. I'd love to do that again some day.

Arkansas Patti said...

Thank you so much for stopping by TNS and commenting. I really liked your style of writing and thoroughly enjoyed your article on the Lifelines blog.
I too was a bit surprised by all the great people from all over this country and some out of this country that I met blogging. A real plus surprise.

Freda said...

Such an interesting story and good to see the pictures of you and Mary and the houses. I'm like you, it's good to share thoughts and events for friends and family but also to reach out to a wider community. I suspect some of my family don't read my blog...... but hopefully it will still be there when the times comes to pass on!! On that cheerful note, Every Blessing.

Grandmother Crone said...

Hi Marcia, I just left a link for the workshop site.
I'm about to leave another link that is related.

Kate said...

Wonderful story, Marcia. I've had the wonderful pleasure of meeting one cyber friend in person and look forward to, hopefully one day. Meanwhile, thanks for memories and experiences you share here.

Anonymous said...

Јust wіѕh to say yοuг artісle is аs
astoniѕhіng. The сleaгnesѕ іn your poѕt іѕ simply gгеаt and
і could аssume you're an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the enjoyable work.

Here is my blog post - how to buy and sell cars online with craigslist