I have this theory that someday I will be looking through a new acquaintance's old vacation photos and I'll see myself in the background of a picture. Think about it: when you're snapping pictures in a touristy area, you always capture images of lots of other people standing beside the people and things you are really trying to capture. We're all walking around with photo books full of strangers - except, my theory is, it's likely that some of those strangers we encountered in our past are actually people who will be important in our future; we just don't recognize them at the time.
I've got nothing to back this up, of course. I just believe that it happens.
It's stuff like this:
Shortly after KAL from Autism Twins won the Ice Out '08 competition on my blog, we discovered that we went to college together. We graduated from the same university the same year. We didn't know each other, but I bet we passed each other in the student union and said hello. I bet I dropped my student ID in the dining hall and she picked it up and handed it back to me. I bet we took Intro to Psych in the same massive lecture hall. And I bet the professor even mentioned autism. We were probably sitting next to each other that day. I bet there were all kinds of coincidences. We just didn't know it.
And then there's Niksmom from Maternal Instincts. We discovered about a year ago that we had a mutual Facebook friend. It seems that Pearl, a woman who is like family to me, the mother of my dear friend Kay, worked with Niksmom in the late eighties. Upon discovering the connection, Pearl produced a twenty-year-old photograph of Niksmom sitting in their living room - a living room so familiar to me that it could be my own. For all I know, I arrived at their house as that gathering was breaking up. Perhaps Niksmom and I passed in the driveway. Maybe I sat down in the chair she'd just vacated before the seat was even cold.
And now that I think about it, Kay and I are friends from college. Kay was probably KAL's lab partner in some general education science course.
I think this stuff happens. All. The. Time.
Interestingly enough, I've been thinking about this because I've been thinking about Brad Paisley and my friend Kiki.
In late August, 2007, to celebrate our mutual birthdays, my friend Kiki and I traveled two hours to a county fair to see a Brad Paisley concert. On the way, I told her the remarkable story of Bud and Dierks Bentley's hair - a story that had unfolded two weeks earlier. A few months later, Kiki and I went together to see Dierks Bentley.
Then, this past July, I was at home when my cell phone rang. It was Kiki, who was vacationing with her husband and son in Washington, D.C.
"You will never believe where I am," she said when I answered. "I'm at the Lincoln Memorial, standing twenty five feet away from Brad Paisley."
Brad was there shooting a video. Kiki and her family just happened to be walking by, and they stayed to watch. Then they were invited to join the crowd as the crew started filming some footage.
Less than two months later, I was with Kiki when I saw that Brad's video had been released online. The song was Welcome To The Future - a song that, in fact, I'd blogged about the previous month.
We pulled the video up on my laptop. It prominently featured children - including children with disabilities. Its message was one of hope, of promise, and of potential. Before it was over, I was crying - but not crying so hard that I missed the images of Kiki's family, their hands in the air, singing along with Brad Paisley.
Two weeks later, I stood backstage at the very same county fairground where Kiki and I had seen Brad two years earlier, almost to the day. I stood with Brad and Dierks and Bud, my boy whose disability had made this meeting possible - my boy, who at that very moment, was so full of hope, of promise, and of potential.
As we stood there together, the crew on stage next to us tested equipment and the opening strains of Welcome to the Future filled the air. Despite my preoccupation with keeping Bud regulated, I thought of Kiki and felt like I should somehow acknowledge the bigger picture - the coincidence, the synchronicity - this fairground on this weekend, these lives that have intersected, this child with this disability, this song and this video - this hope, this promise, this potential. But I didn't have the words. And so I let the moment pass.
But I'm thinking that Brad Paisley might want to pull out some of his old photo albums and check out the background of pictures from his childhood trips to Disneyworld and the like. Because I have a hunch that he just might see me standing there somewhere, perhaps looking distracted in line for It's A Small World.
Or maybe he'll see my friend Kiki.