Mom taught me many things as a child. Don’t interrupt people in conversations. Start with the outermost silverware at fancy restaurants. Beauty and brains can live hand-in-hand in one person. Love is a feeling, but it’s also a choice.
And stories are everywhere.
The bored, teenaged cashier. The old woman with the electric pink guitar. The overly enthusiastic fisherman. They all have a story as unique as they are. Sometimes, we know the story because we know the people, but sometimes we don’t. And that is when the stories get interesting.
Sitting at the mall’s food court, Mom, my brother, and I would carefully watch the people. We would note their gait, their clothes, their companions. Then, we would begin:
“His name is Melton. Melton Sherwood. He’s supposed to meet his wife for lunch, and he’s looking for a last-minute birthday present for her.”
“And he wasn’t able to buy one earlier,” one of us would continue, “because he left his wallet.”
“On the bus.”
“And he left his cell phone too.”
“No, it fell on the pavement and broke.”
“And then a car ran over it.”
And thus it would continue. His unkempt hair, his hurried pace, his frantic search for a store added to the story. Even long after he left, we speculated about his fate. If he were intriguing enough, he would end up in my notebook, filled with people and ideas.
When we were younger, Mom mostly made up the stories, and my brother and I would only add very minute details. But as we’ve grown older, the stories have grown more intricate. We notice more details. We read into the subtleties of expressions.
A strange habit, perhaps, but I would dare say it made us more intuitively in touch with others’ emotions. We notice the details others miss. We see the world instead of dispassionately passing through it. We are curious.
And, if nothing else, it brought us together and provided good practice for storytelling.
And gave some people a deserved happily ever after.