Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tell Me A Story

If you want to get to know someone, get them to tell you their stories. What they tell you, and perhaps more importantly, what they don't tell you, offers a way to gain insight into how someone ticks in a way that a mere exchange of biographical data cannot. Over time...they will tell you the secrets of the universe....or at least they would if they knew them. I know this because, without my even realizing what I was doing in sharing my stories, it happened to me.

Over the past year I have shared certain stories...and other stories I have not. In part because as with everyone else, certain of my stories are intertwined with stories belonging to others. Prudence and good manners dictate that certain things, that certain stories remain private and closely held. Anyway...this story jumped to the front of my remembrances last month, while sitting on a bench, in the snow, while waiting on a friend.

In my early teens I rode my bike everywhere. It was nothing for me to ride eleven miles to a friend's house or fifteen miles to the nearest major town to go to the movies. I grew up in a place where it was a ten mile round trip just to get a pizza. I rode my bike less because I wanted to go to these places but rather because where I lived was a place that was more attractive on departure than on arrival. Not wanting to be someplace can be as powerful a motivator as wanting to be someplace.

So...one day...on my bike...I stopped at a friend's house. We had known each other since grade school and to be honest with you I had a small crush on her. I still do...in an innocent school boyish sort of way. Anyway...it was a humid overcast New England day and I stopped at my friend's house. We, my friend, her sister, and I played basketball, talked, and for lack of a better word...hung out.

I must have looked hungry...and in my early teens I was always hungry...as my friend's mom invited me in for something to eat. I had never been inside this particular home before...and I remember walking across the whitest carpet I had ever seen. She had me sit down at the table and put before me a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on white bread. Next to it was a perspiring glass of ice cold Pepsi.

Sitting at that table, eating that sandwich, and drinking that Pepsi, I felt strange...in a good way...but strange nonetheless...And at the time I could not identify what I was feeling...although I could tell you what I wasn't feeling and I was enjoying that a great deal. It wasn't until last month, sitting on a bench, in the snow, while waiting on a friend, that I realized what I felt on that summer afternoon so long ago. Sitting in that kitchen, with that sandwich, and that perspiring glass of Pepsi felt...nice...kind... civilized...decent...and safe.

Sitting on that bench I could not figure out why I was feeling what I was feeling and for some reason I remembered this particular afternoon from almost thirty years ago. Reveled to me...and now to you...that my fondness for certain things...such as toast with marmalade, stew, chicken marengo, back porches, and turkey sandwiches, are fixes for my apparent addiction to small kindnesses and to the incidental intimacies of everyday life.

Biographical information may tell you the who and the what....only stories can tell you why.

1 comment:

  1. So true Tom. I enjoyed this post and I learned something new about you.