An NPR Moment
Full confession, I listen to NPR. Yes, I know. And okay, sometimes I do feel like I’m trapped in a Saturday Night Live skit. But at any given moment, NPR is usually providing the best conversation going on in my car. Yesterday, this guy was talking about being a storyteller, a job description that makes me shudder with images of hootenannies and numerous Kumbaya moments. But as with many of my prejudices, once I started listening, it turned out that the guy was interesting. Not only that, he was talking about me and, to some extent at least, what I’ve been writing about.
He was talking about childhood. And he was talking about myths. I’ve often said that when Howard died, I lost my childhood. Part of this is because the older I get the worse my memory becomes. But more importantly, my brother was the one who shared my childhood – who saw what I saw, experienced what I experienced. But because his lens was different, as was his point of view, he was able to replay childhood moments for me.
I’m sure it’s the same with most siblings. For better or worse, they are usually our companions through childhood. They feel the same family connections, experience the same family joys and suffer the same family traumas.
Howard and I talked about our childhood and our family constantly and to everyone. It didn’t matter to us that our friends had their own childhoods and their own families. I’m pretty sure that when we were together and we got onto Mom or Dad or Nana or Pop Pop, Howard and I pretty much hogged the conversation.
Of course, we all know that Howard was a pretty damn good storyteller himself, not to mention mimic and actor, so you can imagine those conversations could be pretty entertaining. Nevertheless, and I’ve never asked because I really don’t want to know, I imagine more than a few friends would occasionally roll their eyes and inwardly sigh, “Here we go, the ice cream cone story again,” once we got started.
But here’s the important thing. They’re stories. Myths. They are the boiled down essences of who we are. Howard and I, every one of us, remembered things differently. I acquiesced to Howard in the stories we shared, even when I thought his memory was wrong, because his versions were funnier or sweeter. At very least, they were really well structured.
But that gets us back to the myth thing. Because the essence of what he said was true. As we get older our memories may change but the essence of our pasts does not. And that’s what we write.
So everything you read here is true. Or it’s as true as I or the person writing can make it. But I can’t always vouch for the facts of every moment. No one could. What I can vouch for is the essence of the truth in every moment.
That’s what the guy on NPR was talking about and I thought you’d be interested.
Here’s the other thing he talked about. He talked about why stories are important to us.
He said, “We make someone live by talking about them. By writing about them. By telling their stories”.
I really liked that.