I’ve been thinking today about how life is a large collection of stories. Circular moments of circumstance and the recall of those moments in memory bring us a range of emotions.
My grandmother sat at the kitchen table with me this morning, a place I was raised to believe always meant “story-time”, and told me about the moments she recalls that make her the happiest. Knowing I am her only granddaughter, and my brother her only grandson, I knew she was gearing up to talk about us. I have a collection of stories she has told me more times than I can count, and was expecting one of those again, told in glorious technicolor, as was the only way her mind worked.
I was not altogether wrong. She told me how she often thought of my brother and I when we were toddlers. How she would set me in the playroom in her house, surround me with books or markers or dolls, and I would play by myself for hours. Singing, talking to myself, and making creations only a grandmother could love.
My brother, by contrast, would always require a playmate. She said he would be fine if anyone was engaging him, but there was nothing he could do to entertain himself as long as me. I recall from my own memory that he enjoyed my company at times, but once I was old enough to want his toys, he became the bossy older brother I knew in my preteen years.
I was surprised to learn this information about us both, as my brother now requires little to no attention to keep busy, while I often find myself lonely beyond repair without a playmate. Until I realized that when I am alone, creating, I need to be in solitude. Having others around distracts me, especially other creative minds. I have done a lot of work with other writers, and though I gain quite a lot of insight regarding scope and detail for my own works (and theirs), when actually creating, I need to be alone. And when focused, I can entertain my mind for hours.
My grandmother went on to say that she would also think about the roles I would play when engaging her at this age. I had a “general store” I would set up, pricing all my dolls and books, and charging my shoppers an arm and a leg to buy my merchandise. I would also setup my “classroom”, taking the morning to color pages in my coloring book and instructing my dolls and my brother’s G.I. Joes on the importance of staying in the lines and learning the alphabet.
Finally, I would fall prey to a very common role to little girls my age – the tea party. I had a little blue case that held about ten teacups and saucers, and would set them all around the house. My justification, I was told, was that you never knew when you would be thirsty, so I would bring tea to everyone in the house, and then leave cups on the staircase, the piano, and the ledge by the window, places my family would often come and go.
I am awash in the strange feeling that came over me after I was told these stories. I have spent considerable time working in stores, and have entertained the desire to open my own used bookstore/cafe. I have also been a teacher, failing miserably after only one year. But both dreams I have had apparently since my toddler years. I wonder if the tea parties could be totally allocated to a little girl’s dream to be hospitable, or if I will one day be serving tea and hiding nourishment in plain sight of those who need it.