I’ve been wanting to write about so many things lately, but of course I can always find an excuse for avoiding it. I’m not one of those brilliant, feverish writers who is just compelled to write, to tell stories. But I’ve had a lot of death around me lately, and it was also my birthday this week. If putting those things together doesn’t make you reflect on things, then you probably ain’t got much to say anyhow.
As is often the case, I’ve been thinking about stories. The importance of telling one’s own story just grows larger and larger in my mind. But it’s also easier and easier to lose the thread of a story, to forget to tell it because we’re too busy. It’s even easier to forget to ask for the stories of those around us. And these stories are the glue that hold us all together. Not just the stories, but also the act of asking and telling. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve thought of something that I would love to tell my mother or one of my sisters or someone close to me, but they simply weren’t available. The impulse to tell the story, though, simply won’t be denied, so I’ve told someone at work, next to me. I’ve had more interesting conversations start up that way. Of course, I’ve had my fair share of weird looks shot in my direction, but the usual reaction is that the recipient of the story warms to the tale and shares one of their own. I’ve learned about people’s families, old bosses, ex-spouses, haunted houses, brothers, sisters, family recipes, kids’ sports teams, industrial accidents, favorite songs….you name it. These may not be earth-shattering revelations all the time, but they certainly create fuller pictures of people, which is the only thing I’m really interested in, at the end of the day. As much as I want people to know me, I want to know them. Probably more, to tell the truth. I come from a family of storytellers, and story-getters. People who hold a collective memory and history. My mother has been collecting oral histories of the Mexican community in Detroit for about the last 15 years. I know that sometimes it’s very hard to tell one’s own story, it can be too painful, or too shameful or just too much. Sometimes it’s easier to pass on the story, let someone else hold it for a while, until the edges are dulled a little bit and then they can return it. My project for the week is to collect some stories and to tell some stories. I’ll figure out what to do with them a little later.
Stepchild in the Promised Land