Exploring Friendships

Meeting People

Meeting People

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe. I haven’t heard from you for a while. What have you been up to?
JOE: For one thing I am back to work on my novel, Marital Property.
CALLIOPE: Have you been working on it over the weekend?
JOE: I had to set it aside. I have a column due next Saturday.
CALLIOPE: About what?
JOE: That was exactly the issue. I usually have several ideas in mind but none occurred to me this week.
CALLIOPE: What did you do?
JOE: I trusted that an inspiration would arise?
CALLIOPE: And did it?
JOE: Just in the nick of time. I was wandering around Orleans County with my girlfriend Carol on Saturday. I woke up Sunday morning with a plan to write about strangers, acquaintances and friends based on people we met on our drive.
CALLIOPE: Did you pursue it?
JOE: I did. By the end of yesterday I had a draft written.
CALLIOPE: Congratulations.
JOE: I’ll share it with you next weekend.

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Sliding Otter News- Listening to Each others’ Stories

Broadway Street Sculpture

~People are hungry for stories.  It’s part of our very being. Storytelling is a form of history, of immortality too. It goes from one generation to another~ Studs Terkel

Recently I tended a table at the Batavia Ramble, a local music festival. My job was to encourage people to add their two cents worth to a story began by Joanne Beck. Easy enough, I thought. For quite a while no one was willing to write a single word. I added a line and then a few others continued with their own. Even with the pump primed, very few risked adding their input.

We all have a story to tell.  From early childhood we heard tales of relatives we would never meet and others we knew well. We also heard stories of our childhood doings we might prefer to forget.

In social conversion, we seldom spout facts. Instead, we take turns telling the stories of our experience or stories we have heard from and about others. Sometimes it is all we can do to wait our turn until others finish their stories or reach the point where we can insert our own. We are disappointed when the conversation takes a hopeless turn and it becomes clear that our story will just not fit the conversation. But then we find an opportunity to share our story and we feel better, knowing we have finally been heard.

Each of us has a collection of stories which define us and lets others know what we cherish, what we enjoy and how we view life.  My favorite story is one my father told me about Joseph Stickystickystambo nosorambo hadybodybosco ickynonnynoonynony conironitando. Ask me sometime and I’ll share it with you.

Our relationships tend to break down when we become so intent on conveying our story that we forget to listen to someone else’s story. Their story is just as important to them as ours is to us. Stories are not just important to individuals. Whole cultures and civilizations make sense when we encounter the fabric of their stories woven over many generations.

We trace the story of our culture through the Last of the Mohicans, The Scarlet Letter, Tom Sawyer, Gone with the Wind, The Old Man and the Sea, The Enemy Below, Hawaii and many others which tell us and those we encounter who we are as a society.

So why was it so hard to get people to write at the Ramble? Perhaps it is because we want to tell our own stories rather than be part of someone else’s story. Of course, all of us serve as characters in the life stories of those we meet. Maybe we just need to remember that we are minor characters in others’ stories as well as the main character in our own story.

Life Lab Lessons

  • If you want to know people, listen to their story.
  • Hear them  out without interrupting.
  • If you don’t understand their story, ask for help.
  • Find common bonds in your stories.
  • Seek friendship in our common bonds.

An Artistic Week

Fraterrigo Family

Fraterrigo Family- Batavia Ramble

JOE: Good morning Calliope.
CALLIOPE: Good morning Joe, You must be busy lately.
JOE: You guessed right. I feel like I have been on the run for the past week.
CALLIOPE: Tell me about it.
JOE: I told you about our upcoming activities. They all happened this week. First was the Ramble last Saturday with two stages of music going all day long. I tried to get people to add to our story “Ramble On..”  started by Joanne Beck, one of the reporters at the Daily News. Not too many people are interested in writing these days.
CALLIOPE: What else.
JOE: On Sunday, GO ART! held its Picnic in the Park. I was in charge of the Explore Art tent, introducing children to creative art efforts. That went better than the writing.
CALLIOPE: Is there more?
JOE: Indeed. On Thursday, I helped the Genesee Veterans Support Network award the prize for a Logo Contest which has been underway since May.
CALLIOPE: And now?
JOE: A little time to relax this weekend.
CALLIOPE: Sounds like you earned it.
JOE: I think so.  Later.

My Own Personal Mr. Bojangles

Orange Butterfly

Orange Butterfly

~I know a man Bojangles and he’d dance for you
In worn out shoes
With silver hair, a ragged shirt and baggy pants
The old soft shoe~

Mr Bojangles- Jerry Jeff Walker

I didn’t know John was a dancer. As we approached Radio City Music Hall, we talked about how nice it would be to see the Rockettes perform.  Neither of us had more than subway fare in our pockets. He told me he used to dance with some of the performers at Radio City. I thought he was pulling my leg. He knocked on the stage door and within minutes we were watching the Christmas Show from backstage. One of the performers handed me a camel’s reins as he led it offstage.

That was the most dramatic moment I recall from our years of friendship. Mostly I remember the twinkle in his eye and gentle laugh which buoyed me up in my darkest moments. We helped each other keep afloat in life and managed to avoid the undertow at least for while.

After circumstances ripped us from each other, I had few chances to spend time with him. We were both in the throes of adjusting to lives neither of us had planned. The last time I met him he sat before the fireplace in his apartment, feeding into the flames pages of the book he had recently finished writing. I worried about him.

The next time I tried to contact him, he was nowhere in sight and I could not locate him for many years. Finally I tracked him down through his sister-in-law. I found him in a single room occupancy hotel where he had to be called to the phone. It was John and it wasn’t.  I could feel the embers of his old self but his thinking and sense of humor were like Tinkerbell’s light, just barely glowing. I knew depression had gripped him at times, but now he was almost gone.

I did not have the opportunity to visit him after that. Or maybe I was afraid to. I wrestled with myself for several years about it. Recently I made arrangements to attend a wedding very close to where he grew up.

Renewing my search for him, this time I located his sister. She told me about the years when he struggled with schizophrenia, which did not surprise me. Finally he found good care, peace of mind and a loving relationship. Unfortunately cancer found him and he died several months prior to my call to his sister. I was happy that she was there for him right up to the end and that he had a taste of what life could be.  “Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles, dance.”

Life Lab Lessons

  • Don’t take your friends’ support for granted.
  • Graciously accept what they have to offer you.
  • Realize that sometimes their struggles consume them.
  • Offer them what you can of yourself.
  • Cherish the time you have with friends while you can.