As we peered into a tiny cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park, the ranger described long cold winters during the thirteenth century when entire families huddled together in these cramped quarters. No television, no internet, no telephone. He painted a vivid, if grim, picture of life for these Pueblo people. But, ending on a positive note, he expounded on the rich oral tradition they produced during long nights by the fire when story telling was their only entertainment.
It’s a quality which we of the twenty-first century often lack. We LOL with our BFF until we say TT4N. We’re always coming or going, catching up or falling behind. No time to sit and relate in a meaningful way.
In my life there have been two recurring situations where telling and retelling personal anecdotes is alive and well.
#1: Childbirth Chronicles
Parents of kids up to about kindergarten age rely on the ubiquitous playgroup to maintain their sanity. It gives the kids a chance to learn to “play nice” while the moms enjoy adult company. I was an active participant before I patted my kids on the behind as I ushered them onto the school bus.
I liked everything about it, except when we had a newcomer cross the threshold. Because no matter how much I might end up liking that person, those initial sessions played out identically. By way of introduction, the newbie would relate the tale of her recent pregnancy, labor and delivery. And if she had more than one child, she’d do it all over again for each sibling. Then, to carry out adult bonding, everyone else in attendance would do the same thing.
After many iterations of this, I knew WAY more than I wanted to about very intimate details in other people’s lives. So when I pulled up and saw a new car in the driveway, I was always temped to flee.
#2: MS Monologues
I participated in two events during the last month that involved a gathering of people with multiple sclerosis. During the course of each of those activities a request was made to “tell us your story.” Which meant, “give an account of your initial symptoms, the medical tests that led to your diagnosis, and the succession of medications you’ve taken. Include dates.”
Everybody (except me!) seems to have a well-prepared speech which they can present at a moment’s notice and which serves to introduce them to the MS community. It can’t be too long or the audience loses focus. Too short and pertinent information gets omitted. I think I need to work on my spiel.