In the last few posts I have been sharing everyday stories with you. Ordinary stories from ordinary lives.
Yet they are compelling and stay with us forever.
Some of the best writing – the kind that the readers readily identify with – comes out of all the little happenings in our daily lives.
I have been fascinated by how little snippets from our daily lives get stored in our memories, percolate there, and then turn into stories.
A few weeks ago, when I sat down to write my father’s eulogy, the first thing that came to my mind was his hands.
My father had big, soft and caring hands. The kind of hands a father should have. I started writing about them and out came a story that I didn’t know existed in my memory vaults.
When I was a little girl, on one hot summer day while playing in a park, I got thirsty. My father led me to a water tap where I tried to drink water with my hand. My tiny hands couldn’t hold much water. Watching me struggle, he cupped his hands, filled them with water and let me drink from it. My thirst was quenched with just one handful.
Out of millions of such snippets, I was surprised, this one surfaced.
I wondered why. Why didn’t I recall so many other things we did together? Why nostalgia didn’t take me to the jokes he cracked or poetry he recited?
Following that another snippet of memory surfaced. This time he was putting five-years-old-me to sleep by patting my forehead.
Then another one. A photo from my wedding day. He had his hand over my head in the form of blessing.
In a way it made sense. My father was the symbolic protective hand over me all my life.
But that was not the reason for these memories to come flooding on the morning of his cremation.
It was because he held my hand briefly when he took his last breath as if reassuring me one last time that everything is fine. He was fine. I will be fine.
The memory of his touch conjured other similar memories.
That is perhaps how the everyday stories are formed. One memory recalling another one until they all get interconnected.
Stories are all around us. The trick is developing an active curiosity about them – the way a child does.
“Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories,” Eudora Welty recalls in One Writer’s Beginning. “Listening for them is something more acute than listening to them. I suppose it’s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening children know stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.”
Better than anything else, that probably summarizes what these personal stories are all about and what they tell us about the diversity and story-worthiness of ordinary people.
They speak to our sense of closeness.
As columnist George Will once put it so succinctly: “It is extraordinary how extraordinary an ordinary person is.”
And even more extraordinary is the number of stories they’re carrying around – waiting to be written.