Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Charlotte's World Wide Web

“You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that.”

In the past week three people who I haven’t seen in over 25 years have contacted me.  One was through my shameless promotion on Facebook of an upcoming informal college reunion. The others were surprisingly high school friends. 

One high school friend texted me out of the blue while I was in my car on Sunday afternoon. I was riding to my daughter’s competition.  In broken English she texted on how she

just got back from NJ…Just after that JAMA article about women’s atypical cardiac symptoms..We  decided to proceed with Cath….I was advocating for the procedure because to  (sic) exclude cardiac disease…

I texted back at a stoplight hoping there were no police nearby.

You? Your Mom?

We are both of a certain age. Statistically, it could have been either. She is a physician on the staff of Harvard Med School as if that shielded her from real fear of her own illness or that of parents.

Very literate people who text or email you with poor grammar or with misspellings have a lot more to say than their message. There’s a lot of fear in bad English.

I called her as soon as I could.

The other contact was another high school friend who I had gotten to know more the summer after high school.  My family had moved that summer to a more shore location where her family had a second home. We had a great summer together.  I remember her boyfriend at the time had a Pontiac GTO convertible.  There is nothing like speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike with the top down in the back of a convertible when you are 17.  College came and we went our separate ways. I had tenuously kept touch with her through Christmas cards but that too had fallen by the wayside.

She emailed me through Linked–in.  She was previously a grammar school social sciences teacher but now her profile said she started her own public relations firm. A career change….good for her. You go girl. I can’t wait to hear the story.

The third has been my friend since the first week of college.  Orientation week at my college was a bit wild at times (wilder than I had previously imagined in an academic institution that boasted more Nobel Laureates than varsity team players). We had both found ourselves as refugees in the Resident Master's apartment one night.  We talked for a long time. It was a long discussion of hopes and fears, which lead to a great friendship. I don’t know why it has taken so long to reconnect.

He apparently traded in his Izod polos and violin for a Harley-Davidson and now rides a horse named Squire. Way to go. The West looks great on you.

Long ago, "Charlotte’s Web" was one of favorite children’s books.  I remember reading it in third grade.  Like most good children’s books it has messages for audiences of all ages.

Charlotte, the spider, wrote messages for Wilbur, the pig, eventually saving his life.  Beautiful messages of love and friendship all spun in the only medium she had, her web.

“Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?"
"Oh, no," said Dr. Dorian. "I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle."
"What's miraculous about a spider's web?" said Mrs. Arable. "I don't see why you say a web is a miracle-it's just a web."
"Ever try to spin one?" asked Dr. Dorian.”

 We all have a quite different web now.  And it is a miracle. Without the social networks that have been spun in this World Wide Web, these wonderful old friends probably would never have contacted me. We spin texts, emails, Linked-in messages, Facebook postings, not to mention blogs. I have obviously gotten caught up in it. It has supplanted long letters of days gone by.  It has largely replaced long telephone conversations. Like Charlotte, these words should be carefully woven, revealing just enough and just in time. If woven tightly enough, some of us will not slip through.

Sometimes true friendship can be the most exquisite webbing of the strongest material of nature.

Charlotte’s medium is today's message.

And it is "Terrific."