I used to get the back-home gossip from my mother. In the olden days, when “Men in Black II” came out, she was like a Greek oracle or a Shakespearean seer. With her job in the school district, she always knew what was happening with everyone. Charlie’s a plumber and about to be engaged to Samantha the artist. Bobby, who had that baby so young, is working for the fire department. Mom always knew how to deliver the news; she’s your oldest confidante. She knows that when you’re too old for that kind of thing, you’re still gonna cry when the last strawberry in the floundering patch dies, and about that boy who was soooo cute when you were 15 and gangly. When the news was bad, I was prepared before she spoke because of her deep inhale and too-long pause. After telling me the girl who wore sneakers to the senior prom was killed by a drunk driver, we stayed on the phone together.
Then came the “just the facts, ma’am” Facebook.At first, I was only Facebook friends with the people I knew right then in real life. They sent me a string of congratulatory messages, full of exclamation points, welcoming my late self to the raging party on the internets. Then came the kids I was good friends with in high school. These were the people who cared deeply about who got the lead in the high school musical — these were the kids whose chemistry-skilled brains I coveted and whose phone lines I clogged at 2 a.m. I hadn’t seen them in years and we’d not been in touch, because that’s what happens when you move away, but we plugged away at our own cross-profile page reunions full of marriages, jobs, and babies.
Then came the friendings of the people I’d never really known. We’d sat two seats apart in homeroom for four years without ever knowing about favorite ice cream flavors or television shows, let alone plans for the future. I clicked confirm, confirm, confirm! It felt like finally getting to know that room full of teenaged strangers. Besides, my slacker high school class never got it together enough to plan a reunion, so this felt just as good. Better, even. I didn’t have to find the perfect dress to make me look simultaneously smart, sexy, and successful, yet tasteful and understated. When my mom called, flush with the news of engagements or parental divorces, I already knew. Facebook told me.
When I was younger, there was a girl whose house I passed on the way home from elementary school. I went over the wooden footbridge with the mama and yellow baby ducks underneath to look past the high bushes to her house on the left. She had so many friends and a pool. Sometimes, my little insides would get a pang of jealousy because I wanted to be the pretty girl with all those friends and the big pool. But last week, Facebook told me she committed suicide. I sat alone in the living room staring at the screen and waited. I don’t know what I was waiting for, but I felt so sad for her and all of her family. I called my husband in to tell him about the baby ducks and the girl on my way home, but he didn’t know her. And I kept sitting after he left, kept waiting for Facebook to do some more work — give me more … Why did she do that? … To really talk to someone else who knew her. But it didn’t. And I didn’t know what to do.
I missed my mother. Because for all the faces I’ve friended, I still didn’t know whom to call.