Wednesday, December 01, 2010


I'm a storyteller, have no doubt. Nothing makes me happier than when something ironic or hilarious happens to me, and I get to tell the story to my friends complete with hand waving, dramatic pauses and maybe some exaggeration - all for comedic effect. I love to make my friends laugh and to achieve this, nothing about my life is sacred.

But I'm stumped when it comes to getting others to talk.

Not about the weather or about day-to-day life. No, nothing like that. When put in a situation where I feel someone may be uncomfortable or left out, I am compelled to engage almost anyone in a conversation that will make them feel more comfortable and involved. I can almost always find a common thread with someone if not with myself, then with one of my very diverse and extraordinary friends.

I mean getting someone to tell the stories that everyone has to tell.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, my father talked about his past in a greater detail than I had ever heard. It was awesome, eye-opening, hilarious, and so so interesting. I wish I knew what perfect storm of conditions occurred to prompt this storytelling because I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Was it because I had friends there? Friends who could keep their heads about them and ask questions that I surely wouldn't have thought of? (And assuredly would have KICKED myself for not asking once the moment had passed?*) Was it because of the martini he had to drink? Was it because of the late hour of the night? Was it because we had all just shared such a spectacular time together? I don't know that I'll ever figure it out, but I'm so glad I was there.

And yet, I keep coming back to the question of how to get that to happen? How do I go about following the recipe for that perfect storm of conditions? I mean, my father discussed events that I had no idea had ever occurred, so it's not like I could have asked specific questions about a time in his life that I didn't know anything about. Maybe I just need to ask questions like, "What was high school like for you?" more often. Because seriously? Fascinating.

And by the way - did you know that parents had these whole other lives before their children were born? True story. I've examined and enjoyed this new dynamic of interacting with parents as an adult before, but I'm not sure I'm completely over the fascination of it. Maybe because it has happened so suddenly and maybe because it has nothing to do with me having children. (Isn't that usually the rite of passage that changes things between the new parents and the previous generation? Or is it marriage?) More often than not when I ventured back into the land of my childhood, I found myself frustrated and upset by falling back into the role of teenage-Emily. Lately, I've made more of an effort to express myself more clearly and remain the "adult" I know I am when living on my own - and to interact with my parents as that person. I think having my friends around (who never knew teenage Emily) helped make that change permanent.

Totally worth losing 3-5 mpg taking that gigantic suitcase to Southern Indiana, btw.

Also, this post by Candy made me really appreciate having my parents and enjoying every second I have with them. I did, in fact, take pictures of us playing Mexican Train dominoes. Unfortunately, being Emily, I left the pictures on my dad's camera to be retrieved on a subsequent visit.

So do yourself a favor and call your parents soon, if you can. Have a drink with them and just talk - as a friend, not as a parent. How often does that happen? If it feels different, just ignore it and push through. The rewards are so so worth it.

* Shout out to Candy for her fantastically detailed questions!


zlionsfan said...

lol. Not all of us have parents with such interesting stories to recall ... for the most part, my parents would have said "Well, we went to college and got our degrees, and then you were born, and you know the rest." It makes a difference if you were born later in your parents' lives.

Also, there are some things you might not want to know ... ask questions carefully. (Or is it just my mom who does that?)

ems said...

That's interesting. I hadn't thought about how it makes a difference if your parents had children later in life. Food for thought.

Oh and I understand about asking questions carefully. I think my parents consider embarrassing their children a national past time.

Candace said...

The parental sharing was one of the highlights of the weekend. That was an awesome story and insight into your father. I am glad I was there with my questions.

I have recently realized the power of only asking questions that I am prepared to hear the answer to. I think the story was told in a way to minimize the child embarrassment.

PS...I am glad I have you acquainted with the size of my suitcase so you will not be shocked in the future.

zlionsfan said...

I suspect there will come a time when you will be glad you brought something smaller with you.