I’m grateful for the internet. And while this is not a new revelation — I have, after all, been pretty active on the internet for a while — this week I experienced some straight-up connection, served with whopping side of nostalgia, that made me sit up and take notice of how awesome social media can be.
It all started with a pair of TOMS.
You know, the ubiquitous cloth shoes company, founded by Blake Mycoskie, which ostensibly donates a pair of shoes to the needy for every pair purchased? Yeah. Those. I’d been seeing these shoes everywhere and while I applauded their mission, I’d never been moved to purchase a pair for myself, mostly because I associated them with the inexpensive cloth “alpagats” of my childhood in Trinidad & Tobago — and frankly, I don’t remember those shoes as being particularly comfortable. So as noble as I found TOMS motive to be, their novelty was lost on me.
And then my daughter asked for a pair. Since she’d recently outgrown most of her shoes, I acquiesced. And while I was on the website, on a whim, I bought my own pair.
They arrived this week, and I was surprised that they were far more comfortable than I remember alpagats being. So I said as much on Twitter.
Immediately people responded with how much they loved their pairs; however, one person, a blogger who I’d met several times in person and has since become a friend, tweeted: “You didn’t grow up wearing alpargatas (or equivalent English name) in Trinidad?”
I had forgotten: Roxanna is from the Caribbean as well — the Dominican Republic! I quickly responded that I had, and we lamented how uncomfortable these used to be. “But TOMS aren’t like that,” I said. “You should try them. Also — we called them alpagats in Trinidad!”
She responded again, and I could almost hear her laughter. “I love how similar our childhoods were. Caribbean girlhood is FIERCE.”
At this point, another blogger, Patrice, joined us. Patrice is also from Trinidad, and even though we’ve never actually met, we’ve communicated several times via Twitter. “It puts an imprint on your personality forever more. I wouldn’t trade it for the world!” And then, suddenly: “Did kids used to play a game called “elastic” in your primary school experience? Nobody else seems to know it.”
Memory stirred. I typed: “Wait — the one where you wrap the elastic around your ankles and someone’s in the middle?”
Roxanna responded, “I TOTALLY know what you’re talking about. We used to steal the elastics from the seamstresses!”
At this point, the floodgates opened: Cecily chimed in: “In New Mexico we did that but with two broom handles!” And then another person: “Butting in for a minute, but I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, and we played that game. We called it Chinese Jump Rope.” Suddenly everybody was sharing their memories of the game, from places all over the world.
It was astounding.
And I couldn’t help but realize that we were all people who otherwise would likely have never met, and yet here we were, bonding over a common experience. And the world just got a little bit smaller.
So yeah, I’m grateful for social media. And the fact that it allows me to actually connect with people all over the world.
(By the way — have you ever played that game? If so, where did you grow up?)
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