Have you ever wondered how many people you’ve known through the years?  Not casual acquaintances, but those with whom you had a relationship over a period of time.  Depends upon how far back you go, but anyone sufficiently active and sociable should be able to assemble a list numbering in the hundreds.  Once your own memory bank is depleted, consider consulting your school and college year books, old office rosters, organizational directories, as well as invitation lists you’ve kept.

Still, the most valuable and richest source of friendships and familiar names is certainly (before Facebook and “Contacts”) those personal address books and phone directories you maintained and relied upon.  Any one of them (people have generally compiled several) opens the door, not only to current listings, but to a storehouse of memories.  (Entry into your book was never automatic.  It represented your judgment that the relationship was of some importance and likely to endure.)

On page after page you’ll discover a lost world of individuals barely recalled or who exited your life.  Proceeding through the As and Bs, Ss and Ts confirms just how many have passed through and then on by.  More numerous are the names of those with whom you once engaged, were part of your circle, relied upon, spoke to often, but who are now silent, departed.  How can they be gone?  Their names are still on the page together with their addresses and phone numbers.  They’ve not been erased or crossed out.  One should, out of respect, not do that.  Still, cross-outs are, in other instances, unavoidable.  People do not stay still, they move, sometimes repeatedly; their mobility geographically obvious in their multiple listings.  Many names leave you perplexed, they having been crossed off in your memory.  Who were they?  Why are they in the book?  What was our relationship?

You’re likely to linger and reflect upon the names of people once close, individuals whose company and conversation you enjoyed.  Why has contact with them ceased?  You struggle to recall the basis for the separation.  For the moment you’re tempted to get back in touch, perhaps rekindle a once-comfortable relationship.  You may, but more likely you will hesitate, reconsider, find reasons not to.  It would be awkward.  Besides, they’ve made no effort over the years to reach out to you.

Friends, colleagues, family members, area stores, service people – page after page, they’re listed, but a phone call away.  Our personal telephone directories are very much a set of history books documenting significant chapters of our lives.  They are both a handy bittersweet reminder of the many roles we’ve filled and a snapshot of the shifting network of connections and relationships we created and that define the breadth and boundaries of our lives.

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