Last weekend, my life flashed before my eyes.

More specifically, through my rental car window.

I was in Los Angeles to visit an old friend who was in town from Montreal with her family for her brother’s wedding. I rented a car, made arrangements to stay with a cousin and that was the extent of my planning for the weekend.

However, that soon changed.

In just over 48 hours, I had Shabbat dinner at the home of a childhood friend who I hadn’t seen in 15 years, ate brunch with family members, searched through boxes of stuff in storage with my ex-husband, attended a birthday dinner for an old friend, met another friend for breakfast, visited with the Montrealers and saw seven out of eight of my former California homes.

As I drove solo through the streets of L.A. County, each of these visits was punctuated with time to reflect on the magnitude of the experience. Lots of time. (Lots of traffic.)

As I drove through neighborhoods that looked both comfortably and eerily familiar, I relied heavily on intuition and not on a map to find my way. I passed street names that I hadn’t thought of in years and recalled odd bits of memories as I drove past various places. I reflected on the different phases of my life and the people who shared them with me – family, friends, fellow students, colleagues, neighbors.

It amazes me how many people pass through one’s life. Faces smiled out at me from photo albums I found in storage – some I remembered well, others not at all.

My Montreal friends got married a couple weeks after I did. Ten years later, I’m divorced with no children, and they have four sons. Besides the obvious, one difference I notice between my married friends’ lives and my own is the collective memory they share.

For singles, life feels more compartmentalized. Friends and family may not know each other; work and social lives are often kept separate. I guess that might be one of the basic needs that drives people to find a mate – to have someone there to share these references with, to connect the past to the present. To have somebody to turn to 20 years from now to say “Hey, do you remember…”

One can still have those connections through family members and friends, but they’re not intimately involved with your everyday life.

I guess that’s why, when two people start to date, there’s often a desire to share the previous part of their life with the other – to drive by the old elementary school and high school, to give them the photo album tour of the past.

One thing I also realized from my recent Los Angeles experience: I hope traffic never gets as bad in Phoenix. I don’t know if all that extra time to think is such a good thing.

This article first appeared in the Aug. 2, 2002 issue of Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.