I joined Facebook in early 2008 but it wasn’t until two years later that I got the idea to creep old friends. It was 2010 and I realized that my graduating class should have had a significant high school reunion the year before. I wouldn’t have gone — I skipped all previous reunions — but I was curious.
It didn’t take long to find the Facebook page for my class reunion and from there, I fell down a rabbit hole of profiles and timelines, catching up on old classmates and friends.
High school for me wasn’t hell. It wasn’t great either, but thanks to some good friends, it wasn’t horrific. But it ended on a very sour note. A friend named Teri, one of the ‘popular’ girls, decided just before graduation that she despised me. There was no fight, nothing I could put my finger on that would cause her to turn against me, just a sudden and definite hostility that spread throughout our small class of only 78. I was ostracized and had no idea why.
So looking at these people and their lives since then, through the lens of Facebook, was very odd. There were marriages, divorces, kids, and grandkids. Some remained close friends while others, like me, had moved on and barely glanced back.
And some were missing completely. One in particular drove me a bit nuts.
On my first day of kindergarten, I met two girls at the entrance to the school grounds, Colleen and Wendy, also starting kindergarten. We bonded over our identical lunch kits — mine was blue, they each had pink — and became instant friends. For the next five and a half years, it was always the three of us.
Every day we walked to school together in the morning and home again in the afternoon. We played together after school and on weekends, usually at Wendy’s house. Her dad operated heavy equipment so there were always giant inner tubes to bounce on, plus he’d built the best swing set and teeter-totter in their back yard. Rainy days we spent in her basement with Hula Hoops or hunched over a Monopoly board, The Guess Who on the record player.
And the sleepovers — on the floor in sleeping bags, awake most of the night, giggling hysterically the way only little girls can. My god, how we laughed.
Half way through grade five, my family moved across town and I had to change schools. About a month later, I had Colleen and Wendy over to my new house on my birthday, for one final sleepover. After that, in a world before play dates, cell phones, and the internet, we lost touch without the daily contact of school. I was bereft.
By the time grade eight started, Colleen and Wendy had moved, too, and we found ourselves at the same junior high. After a few awkward months, we picked up almost where we’d left off. Wendy had moved further outside of town, so at first, the three of us hung out mostly in school, but Colleen and I found we lived relatively close together and started spending a lot of time together outside of school again.
Then we hit high school and started driving. The three of us skipped school together, going into town to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, we got drunk for the first time together, and we helped each other navigate the mysteries of relationships and sex. We remained close right through graduation.
After we graduated, I wanted to believe that Teri’s issue — whatever it was — hadn’t affected Colleen and Wendy. But it did. I went off to university, Colleen moved to the big city, and Wendy stayed in our hometown. We saw each other a little bit during that first year after high school, whenever we were all in town at the same time, but it became clear that there was a whole social scene built around Teri that didn’t include me. So, my feelings hurt, I let myself drift away.
Decades later, when I started my Facebook creeping, Wendy and Colleen were the two I was most interested in finding. We shared so much history.
I found Wendy almost right away. She wasn’t very active on Facebook but she wasn’t particularly savvy about privacy settings either. I easily discovered she was still in our hometown, living with her widowed mom, and divorced with a grown son.
I didn’t send a friend request.
As hard as I tried, though, I could find no trace of Colleen. If I was going to find her anywhere, surely it would be in Wendy’s Friends List, right? But she wasn’t even there. She wasn’t anywhere.
As much as I loved Colleen, she’d always been a bit pretentious — seeing all the right movies, reading only the right books (always in hardcover), listening to all the right music (on vinyl, of course), wearing just the right clothes and just the right haircut. So even though I hadn’t seen her since before Facebook existed, I could totally imagine her poo-pooing social media as something beneath her. I could also imagine her being resistant to technology — she loathed cassettes and CDs.
So I gave up.
Fast forward to spring, 2016. I was in the midst of a major depression and thinking a lot about my childhood and adolescence. That led me once again into the world of Facebook creeping.
Still no sign of Colleen. This time it really bothered me. Maybe it was the depression, maybe it was intuition, I don’t know. Whatever it was, I felt a real sense of urgency around finding her.
I searched for her again on Facebook. I searched through Wendy’s Friends List again, and the lists of every other former classmate I could find. Nothing. I searched for Colleen’s siblings. Nothing.
I went to Google and searched for her there. Still nothing. I Googled her brothers with no luck. I couldn’t remember her oldest sister’s married name but I did remember her younger sister’s, so even though she’d divorced in the 80s and was likely remarried, I gave it a shot. It was my last chance.
Underneath the first Google search result — which wasn’t Colleen’s sister — there was a row of thumbnail images. They were small and grainy but the third one looked familiar. I don’t know, I thought. I suppose that could be her sister. So I clicked through.
It wasn’t her sister — it was Colleen. It was the photo attached to her obituary.
My heart broke a little.
It broke a little bit more when I read that she’d passed away in September 2012, two years after I’d tried to find her the first time.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the BC Cancer Foundation would be appreciated.
Armed with her sisters’ married names, I went back to Facebook to see if I could finally find Colleen’s profile. And I did.
Her profile consists of a profile photo and a cover image, that’s it. No posts, no friends, no About information, nothing. She created it in June 2012 — three months before she died.
And still, my heart broke even more.
I can’t help wondering if maybe she created that profile after her diagnosis, or as her illness progressed, hoping to reconnect with people she’d lost touch with along the way. People, maybe, like me.
If only I’d tried a bit harder.
I still haven’t sent a Friend Request to Wendy. But I check in on her once in a while, you know, just in case.
And I think about her and Colleen often. I remember those two little girls with the matching pink lunch kits, hovering nervously near the school ground entrance. No guile, no hidden agenda, just two kids eager to make a new friend.
I’m so glad I found them.