Every Table has a Story; But I Still Do Not Owe You an Autobiography

end_table_5_800(With this piece, I’m starting a series of guest blogs featuring other individuals’ extraordinary lives, stories and thoughts. Comments welcome.) 

My mother found a small table in the street. Someone had discarded it and she carried it home. Her friend the furniture store owner refinished it for her. She carried an end table across the alley from a friend’s house. One of the tripod feet caught on the gate and broke off. My father, exasperated each time that she brought something home, felt the need to bring its mate home for her. Again, her friend the furniture store owner had it refinished for her. Her incomplete sets of china with their beautiful cup and saucer or delicate serving platter also have their own stories to tell.

When I took my friend Kathy on a tour of my new home, before these pieces were able to find a more fitting place, she was mesmerized by the provenance of my home furnishings. Somehow, their histories added to their decorative beauty and value.

As I pondered on the intrigue that these stories held for Kathy, I began to think about the private tales each person has to tell. We all know that person who seems to have it all – beauty, brains, career, money, respect. We think that he or she never “suffered” in order to attain success. How many times does a celebrity make a public outcry that people do not know what he went through to achieve success?

For that matter, how many times does each of us make the same outcry? We do not have to be a celebrity to have people in our lives who do not know – or, acknowledge – our histories. There is the friend who tells you that you are so lucky to live in that house. There is the employer who tells you that you have not suffered enough for your job.

In order to get them to “shut up” we feel pressured to reveal every setback which we faced. The response to this revelation? Varied yet mechanical. There is the “thank you for sharing” response; or, the “stop feeling sorry for yourself” response; or, the “I don’t believe you” response. We are neither sharing nor feeling sorry for ourselves. More importantly, we have failed to establish a rapport or any understanding.

Unlike a table that cannot reveal its stories one by one to the other tables, as humans with brains and souls, we should have the opportunity to reveal our stories to other people – slowly and comfortably. Then, we are truly sharing.

Each of us has wonderful stories to tell, stories which can be woven into an extraordinary autobiography. Just do not ask me to hand it to you in one encounter.

Written by Carolina L., pseudonym, an attorney in Denver, Colorado. Carolina is originally from The Bronx, New York which is fertile ground for many stories.

“The Good Parents” as Extraordinary Story

Stories can hold the sum of mankind’s knowledge, desire, and feelings. We learn better if our information comes in the form of tales. They needn’t be particularly dramatic or scary, but somehow they need to be human, connect to us through emotion.  For me, religions and philosophies are specialized stories, and hard sciences are palatable only if they are related in anecdotal fashion. A friend of mine believes I majored in psychology purely because the case studies resemble mini-tales. 

Everyone has his own story. It might be funny or frightening, instructive or entertaining. It might bore some and excite others. Telling a story well, so others can relate to it easily, is the duty of the writer. I have a long list of types of stories I don’t like: zombies, vampires, blood and gore, evil. Also not keen on most sports or tragedies. Don’t like offerings that include torture. Okay occasionally with deaths. I especially don’t like poorly written work. I know the definition of this varies according to the hearer/reader, but, as the untutored viewer said of art, “I know what I like.” 

I especially adore stories about ordinary people. Now that I think about it, I like stories with characters much like my friends—bright, curious, with kindly impulses, interested in what’s around them.  Like my friends, these characters hit highs and lows, have flaws and fortes. They face the challenge of surviving in a world that often is cruel and uncaring, nourishing within themselves  a careful consideration for their own well being and the same for others.. Examples—“Pride and Prejudice,” “The Things They Carried,” “White Teeth.” 

I’ve found a book that meets my qualifications and is a joy to read. “The Good Parents” by Joan London. Set in the author’s homeland of Australia, it features a teen-aged daughter seeking to reach adulthood through the time-honored fashion—an older man—along with the turmoil experienced by her mother and father, aging semi-hippies. There’s a mystery, in fact several mysteries: will the daughter meet a terrible fate and will a disreputable but powerful man in the mother’s past bring doom?

The beauty of this book, however, is neither plot nor action. Rather, the intricate weaving of the inner thoughts, the external impacts, the complex relationships, of the characters make you read faster and faster, to track the lives of people who somehow seem as close as dear friends or beloved relatives. The main characters as well as the secondary ones upon whom only a few pages may be expended are as faceted and radiant and entrancing as a diamond. Through this treatise on one family’s lives, I grew to appreciate my own more.

“The Good Parents” is truly an example of how ordinary people can have extraordinary lives.

Getting old is hell

immigrants small B “Getting old is hell.”  Advice from my grandfather years ago.  As time builds up on me, I’m starting to realize the truth of his statement.  Backs get creakier, joints wear out, muscles weaken, teeth break. 

Do minds age, too?  Shed memories and facts and knowledge like a tree lose leaves in the fall?  I like to deny it, but I fear it may be so.  Everyone I know over a certain age labels absentmindedness a “senior moment.”  If she walks to a room to find a sweater and upon arrival has forgotten what she’s looking for, she blames aging. 

One of the worst results of aging is that we lose the stories of our elders.  I saw an old friend yesterday.  As we chatted, he seemed disoriented; and I worried about his state of mind.  I knew I’d miss the anecdotes of his recent travels, his sharp insights into politics.   

I think about my grandfather and his tales about WW I.  He was gassed in the trenches, survived the Depression.  My mother, whose group of girlfriends daringly took nude photos of one another as teens.  My father’s chronicles of a rough childhood in blue-collar Boston.  (For more on this topic, see my “The Significance of Stories, http://sasee.com/2008/11/01/the-significance-of-stories/)  

How do we capture and remember these extraordinary incidents in our senescence*?  Usually we don’t.  Sometimes writers will through their stories.  Do you have family stories you recall or ones of your own you’d like to pass down?  

*   Senescence: the state or process of being old.