Last night at about this time I started reading Michael Tolliver Lives. And I stayed up all night to finish it.
I loved finally gaining closure for a set of characters I had come to care for. Michael spends some time in his 55th year contemplating all of the people who have touched his life. It was a sweet book and it made me happy.
Tonight, I stayed up late to finish sending my Christmas cards. As I poured though the list, updating addresses, adding partners and removing the deceased, I couldn't help but see the parallel to the book I had just finished.
Our Christmas card list is filled with such a diverse host of characters. For many of them, we will only share this one yearly exchange of a holiday card.
There is my flaky college roommate with the three daughters who look just like her. There are my two lesbian bridesmaids whose cards always get returned because they move so much.
There are my husband's ROTC friends, many of whom have had their lives touched by the war in Iraq even more than we have. There is the priest who married us. There are relatives who probably can't even remember what I look like, much less realize that I am old enough to have two children.
There are the host of military friends who have surely moved on to another base in the last year. I send less and less cards to them every year.
There are our parents, grandparents, my brother, my husband's step-sisters. There are the local friends who have supported me so much these last few months. And there are friends and family I've come to know through this very blog.
All of these people have touched our lives in different ways. Some in passing, some so deeply that we are different people for knowing them. They all have their own stories and their own lists.
Too many people have come and gone over the years to even count.
But the 55-year-old Michael Tolliver would consider me young. He would know that I have many more connections to make. And many more connections to break.
He would know that what I now consider to be the worst time in my life (which, frankly, is this present moment) could be eclipsed without a moment's notice. And he would know that what I now consider to be the most wonderful time in my life (which, frankly, is also this present moment) could be outshone before my eyes.
I wonder where I'll be in twenty years. Barring catastrophe, I know I will still be loving my husband and caring for my (now adult) children. I could be a grandma by then!
But what I wonder most about my life in twenty years is how many of the people who are so important to my life now could be mere footnotes in my story then.
People come and go so quickly. The trick, I think, is knowing who to hold on to and who to let go.
And I think Michael Tolliver go it quite right.