09 October 2011

Don't Walk Away, Renee!

I got an email from one of my oldest and now dearest friends. A long time ago we were psychological intimates: somehow, we grew symbiotically on each other. Of course, then I would never characterize our relationship in those terms; then, I loved her differently than I think that she loved me, but then we did unquestionably love each other each in our own way, and speaking for myself, I think that love must have helped me become who I am because she stills lives inside of me. And today she reminded me of something I am glad she remembered.
I attended a college in the South for obscure reasons. The South was, however, as far removed from my culture as I was prepared at the moment to go, though at that moment I do not believe that I would have been able to articulate this as my motive.  I was a liberal Northerner, a participant in the Jewish faith, a liberal Democrat (though I would not have used those latter terms then). What I was doing down South at that time was, indeed, a mystery to me. No sooner did I arrive there then my position as stranger confronted me: there were people on campus who didn’t like me for being either from the North, or being Jewish, a liberal Democrat (though I would not have used the latter terms then), or all of the above. Once, I was playing Dylan’s “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” on my stereo and my roommate announced indignantly that Dylan was a liar and he knew that for a fact because William Zantzinger was his neighbor! I thought, “You who philosophize disgrace . .”
I was making the best of a difficult situation, I thought, when I saw a poster on campus announcing the upcoming concert of Judy Collins. I had been listening to Judy Collins for years, adored her work . . . ah, why lie? I adored her. I bought my ticket.
I remember almost nothing from the concert but this . . . for her encore she sang “We Shall Overcome,” and I remember thinking that her choice was a brave choice in such a hostile environment. I thought: well, if she can be so strong, then so perhaps could I.
There were other aspects of the concert that my friend recalled to me, but I will let that information remain between she and I, but obviously, I must have talked to her at some length about the evening. More than my memory of the event, it is her memory of my story that I hold to tonight. Because I am the motive of that memory for her.


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