Everyone get ready
All of us in my family are great narrators of our own experiences. It sometimes becomes a sort of competition: how long does it take to wrest these events into a narrative? How long does it take to extract the funny bits and polish them up real nice?
My brother and I are not quite as skilled as our parents, but I believe that we are getting there. My brother, for instance, is very good at turning a time he was stuck in traffic into a sweeping morality tale. He can also make a story about a time he saw a specific kind of dog into the best thing you ever heard. He can fully inhabit a dog, make you believe that it’s actually the dog telling the story.
I am good at saying what people wore, and at explaining how their choice of clothing might hint at some deeper internal crisis. I am good at drawing comparisons: this meeting was like an episode of Planet Earth I once watched; this argument was like when a little kid held the wrong mom’s hand in the supermarket. My dad is good at conveying a mood. This is understating it. He is a kind of salesman of atmosphere and good times. It was wonderful, he will say, with the sea and the trees and the laughs or whatever. You should have been there. He will make you wish so much that you had been there, because it was clearly the best time any group of people have ever had.
My mum, though, is the master, like a wizard. She can take what most people think is an ordinary day and turn it into a parable for our times. She can spot a joke from a helicopter, the way Gloria Steinem says she can spot a feminist. She’s very good.
Today is not an essay so much as a prelude. On Monday I will post one of my mum’s stories, complete with newspaper clippings and a photograph. The clippings and the photograph, by the way, come from a scrapbook she made. At the beginning of the scrapbook there are a lot of cut-out pictures of Francoise Hardy, and one of George Peppard on a page all by himself. This should give you some idea of the story’s vintage. Maybe it is a clue to the content, but probably not, because this story is better than you could guess.
Til Monday, then.