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Cotty and Jack O’Brien, my grandparents

Last week, I met up for lemonade in Bryant Park with a friend I last saw in graduate school, decades ago. Yesterday, I introduced two of my friends to each other and learned one had a postcard which she’d kept on her fridge for eight years, a postcard that happened to be designed by the other. A friend of mine, away for the year on sabbatical, became a grandmother nine days ago and sent me a picture of the new baby. When I was in Minnesota over the Fourth of July, I joined 50 other O’Brien relatives I rarely see, swapped stories, and perused photos and artifacts of our common ancestors. We danced and laughed like we’d never been apart.

These threads of connection across distance and time converge in a web of nostalgia and curiosity. How can we have changed so much (on the outside) and so little? How can I have so much in common with a friend or a cousin I’ve basically just met? I don’t need string theory or other dimensions to understand I’m already living parallel lives. I meet myself, other versions of myself, every day, and I’m astonished.

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