‘Old’ friends connect the dots

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

My Facebook time has been sparse lately, more because of circumstances than any kind of protest. I was unhappy and concerned with the Facebook data breach, and it did make me a little more cautious.

But personal responsibility plays into all this as well. I wasn’t surprised it happened and can’t imagine why anyone would be.

To those Facebook users who said they felt “betrayed,” really? For me, that would indicate what I call a misplaced trust in the first place.

In discussing the whole Facebook issue and future of the social media world-changer with my friends, I’m afraid I line up on the loyalty side. Facebook is both good and bad, but it opened a world to me that has brought me great enjoyment.

That world is old friends. I’m in trouble with that statement already, because my friends and I are at the age where we prefer just about any moniker other than “old.”

I had the privilege of growing up in a small West Tennessee town. Lexington had a published population of 5,000. It was a small manufacturing- and farming-based community, nestled near several TVA-created lakes with gently rolling hills. It was Norman-Rockwell picturesque with kids riding bikes up and down the quiet streets and playing kick-the-can in open fields.

Many of the friends I said goodbye to at graduation were the same friends I said hello to on the first day of kindergarten.

I met my best friend in Lexington. Michelle was a little late to the party, moving to Lexington when we were 12. We were immediate friends, came to the University of Tennessee together as freshmen and have been best friends for more than 50 years.

Other friends, however, fell completely off my radar screen, especially after my mother died in 1990, and the trips to Lexington grew less and less frequent.

Then along comes Facebook, and I am suddenly reconnected with “old” friends. I get to see their children, grandchildren and pets and watch celebrations of anniversaries and birthdays.

I am able to add their joys to my list of blessings and share their concerns in my prayers. It isn’t, of course, a complete picture of their lives, just as Facebook isn’t a complete picture of mine, but it’s a window.

I was trying to explain to my sons the difference between “old” friends and newer ones. I would not want to be without either, and, when you are 64, even the “new” friends have some age on them!

The difference is in family history. Some “new” friends remember my 30ish-year-old children only as adults. Others knew them as toddlers. Some “new” friends know me as a News Sentinel writer. Others associate me primarily with Blount County.

Some “new” friends remember a Sherri with long, dark hair. Others have never seen Sherri as anything but blonde!

“Old” friends, however, know my history. When I mention Mamaw and Papaw Ward, when I reminisce about days with Uncles Beanie, Gib and Lanoice, they know these   people and have stories of their own experiences with them.

My children and grandchildren have never had a slice of my Mamaw’s chocolate pie, but I’m sure Sheree and Elizabeth have.  My boys have seen my Papaw’s Gulf station only in faded pictures, but Melanie and David remember the ice house at the station on a hot July day and had Pop Ward fill their cars’ gas tanks.

Those connections have always been there, forged in the days of our youth. What Facebook allowed us to do is connect the dots, joining the memories of our past with today’s reality. Whatever happens with the Facebook universe in the future, I am grateful for those connections.


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