They're here, there, and everywhere

Lives change. That's why she keeps her address book in pencil.

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My address book is coming full circle. Despite the addresses I maintain on the computer, I still keep a small, hard-bound paper address book tucked away on my shelf at home within easy reach of the envelopes. I've had it for about 30 years, since I was a few years out of college. And when I started entering names in it, I remember that I consciously chose to use a pencil, rather than an ink pen.

I was on the move then – from Washington State to Colorado to Idaho to Alaska. And many of my friends were also moving around – graduate school, new jobs, new homes. About the time I got a "J" entered in one town, she'd take off for another. Or I'd get a "T" in place under her last name, then she'd get married and have to move to the "H's." Spouses and children also came along. So a single "Jon" entry morphed into "Jon + Cindy + Joseph + Meghan."

So a pencil and eraser seemed the neatest and most flexible way of keeping track of my young, transient friends and family.

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Connie followed her job from Ketchikan, Alaska, to Seattle to Tucson, Ariz., to Washington, D.C., and back to Seattle in a single entry.

In another entry, I erased the name of a wife, added a new spouse, and moved them in together effortlessly.

Two people lived together in a several places, got their doctorate degrees, split up, moved, and then rejoined and settled down together, where they remain today. I've kind of lost track of what order they did which, and that "relationship entry" is a little more eraser-worn than others, but it's still legible.

My cousin made it back from Australia, then moved from Montana to California, married, changed her name, had three kids, and is still in the same "box" where she started, just beneath my favorite aunt's entry, also filed under "A." (I now file under first names, rather than last, to avoid the maiden/married name struggle.)

For a few years, entries and erasures were less frequent. People settled down, had children, built careers, stayed in one place. But recently I realized I was entering a new era when I had to start reconfiguring entries again. This time it's young nephews and a niece who are moving out on their own, following jobs, going back to school, or having children of their own ("+ BB, + Ritzy").

For one footloose nephew, I've given up on even a pencil entry. I just attach a sticky note in his space and swap it out each time he moves.

I also find that friends my own age are on the road again for different reasons than when we were young. One has moved from Alaska back to Wisconsin to be near aging parents. And I have to keep two entries for my neighbors, who spend the summers here and winters in Arizona.

Friends whose children are now grown and on their own have built a retirement home in Oregon, where the climate is more to their liking.

So the transient nature of my address book is coming full circle. Each old name in it triggers a memory. Each erasure and new address signals a new opportunity for someone. And each brand-new name added enriches my life with friendship.

I look forward to continuing to track the loved ones in my life as they come and go. In pencil, of course.

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