Thursday, January 12, 2012

I'm writing down what you said: Sept. 6, 2009

No one is safe in the presence of a writer. You will all turn up in a book someday, dressed up as characters whose resemblance to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental. My brain never stops taking notes.

It's hazardous business, being friends with a girl always looking for a story to tell.

Fair warning: You’re all on the record 
    In July, at his insistence, I gleefully painted my 4-year-old son’s fingernails and toenails bright red. My neighbor admired his vivid little mani-pedi and then asked, “What did your husband think of that?”

Preschool metrosexual chic
    “He wasn’t thrilled,” I confessed.

    She smiled slyly. “I think I see a column coming on this.”

     A few weeks later, my 9- year-old son ate a ridiculous amount of pizza, then looked at me from behind a plate piled high with gnawed crusts and said, “I just ate five pieces of pizza. Are you going to put it in the newspaper?”

    I laughed. “Maybe,” I said. “Do you really think people want to read about that?”

    He considered for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah, I think so.”

    In August, my husband and I went on a double date with some good friends. A server, looming over us with plates of appetizers, lost his focus for a moment and emptied one of the plates in a clattering heap onto the woman across the table from me.

    My friend mopped gamely with wadded napkins at the puddle of soy sauce on her shirt. The manager made repeated, apologetic visits to our table — offering to pay for dry cleaning and bringing club soda for the stains.

    “It’s OK,” my friend kept saying to the clearly mortified manager. “Accidents happen.”

    A little while later the manager appeared yet again, carrying a bag that contained a new shirt he had asked one of the servers to run out and buy for my friend. She disappeared into the bathroom to change and emerged a few minutes later wearing a really cute top that fit perfectly.

    “That’s karma in action,” I told her once we had settled back down to eat. “You were nice when you could have been really difficult, and the universe sent you a pretty new shirt.”

    Her husband gave me his signature cockeyed grin and said, “This is going in the column, isn’t it?”

    I shrugged. “You never know.”

    And I never do. Which means everyone in my life has developed a habit of assuming anything they do could end up in this little corner of the newspaper. Which is a pretty safe assumption.

    The running joke among those closest to me is that I should have a T-shirt made that reads: You are on the record. It takes a special set of people to be willing to hang around with someone who is pretty much always taking mental notes for possible publication.

    I’ve been pecking away at this little column for more than seven years, and I think the small space it has carved in the relationships that define my life is a pretty powerful testament to the tremendous joy we take in sharing our own stories and in hearing the stories other people have to share.

    Though I have worked my entire adult life as a writer, I am still constantly amazed at how important our stories are to us and how simple it can be to draw the lines that connect us: just words, just stories, nothing fancy.

    And I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a tiny part of that, so lucky to be surrounded by people who understand the gift of a simple story.

    Also, did I mention that my son ate five pieces of pizza? Five pieces, y’all.

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