Ghosts From The Past

They say that when you get to a certain stage in life, people and things from your past start showing up. That’s eerie to think about. Nevertheless, I’m discovering that it’s true. Last week my college friend Steve Burghardt sent me an email out of the blue. Steve was a very important person in my life. We were classmates at Lafayette College from 1964 to 1967. Steve was extremely politically aware; much more so than I was. He really raised my consciousness about what was really going on in the world. I haven’t seen Steve since the 1970’s when he and I were both graduate students. Steve was at Michigan and I was at Illinois. We both ended up in academia. Steve’s still there. He’s a distinguished professor of sociology at Hunter College in New York.

That’s one. A few weeks earlier I suddenly received another email from an old, old friend of mine, Linda Whitmore, whom I haven’t seen in close to 20 years. Linda was one of the first friends I met when I moved to Portland. She was working in the library media program—just down the hall from my office—when I first came to Portland State in 1978. We lost track after I left the university to write full-time. Linda become involved in teaching and union activities. We just dropped off each other’s radar. Then suddenly there’s an email in my mailbox: Hi! Remember me!

It’s been wonderful to reconnect. We have a lot to catch up on. We’ve made a standing date to have dinner or lunch once a month. We also made a vow not to lose touch with each other again.

The strangest message arrived yesterday. Anton Friel, who lives I-Don’t-Know-Where, took the trouble to write to me via the Ask Eric section of my website to ask for my help in tracking down a story. He wrote, “This is going to sound like a bizarre correspondence, but it’s at the end of a very long goose chase that I have been engaging in.” He’s trying to track down a story called “Anton Antonovich: The Ant Who Stood Up To The Tsar. He’s doing it for a friend of his who came upon the story in a reader in Scotland and has loved it ever since. Anton has been looking for the story for the past seven years with no luck. My name came up in association with the story in a web search. He wrote to see if I could help him.

For Pete’s sake! I know that story well. I wrote in the 1970’s when my career was just getting started. How did it end up in a reader in Scotland? It’s no folktale. I made it up. And when did the tsar come into it? The king in the story is Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria-Hungary. Who turned him into Nicholas II? I shouldn’t be surprised. Stories have a life of their own, especially when children love them.

I’m going to write back to Anton today to let him know his search has been successful. I’ll scan a copy of the story and send it to him via email.

I wonder who else and what else from my past is going to show up. I’ll let you know.

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