26 January 2009

There's Something Wonderful About Stories and Open Books

I got to work at 3:06 pm. I was scheduled to arrive at 3:00 pm. No one was in the studio when I arrived. Not the cameramen or the director, not the guys that sit in the soundproof booth running the mics or the producer, my boss. No one was there. Well, except for the hair and make-up lady. She was arranging her supplies into an army regiment on a table in the corner. She had a hairspray bottle and a large tube of gel in the back, like the king and queen on the chessboard. The little eye shadow containers were pawns on the front line, their lids unscrewed and set directly behind them.

The on-set desk wasn't being used and I sat down in the fancy chair behind it. The off-duty cameras were aimed right at my nose. I suddenly felt what it would be like to be Katie Couric on the evening news. I kept thinking about how she must feel every night, in power-suits and heels with bright lights and the world's eyes on her, and I changed my mind. Sitting at an on-set desk in front of empty cameras and switched-off lights is not what it is like to be Katie Couric-- her life is way more glamorous. And with that thought I kept sitting on the set thinking that I would never know what it's like to be Katie Couric.

The make-up lady sat down in the chair next to her make-up table. I think she decided her rows of supplies were as straight as they would ever get. We were both just sitting. Just sitting and waiting. That's when I opened my mouth, "So, you said on Saturday that your husband was a contractor. Tell me more. When did you meet him? Did you like him right away?" I kept going, "And how long have you been married? What is his name? Where do you live?"

"We met at a New Year's Eve party."

"Did you kiss him at midnight?"

"No," she laughed; she must not believe in fast-movers, "but I kissed him on New Year's the next year." She went on to tell me about their first dance at that first New Year's party: they wasted no time for introductions, instead they just teased each other while swaying hip to hip. Two and a half years later, they got married. He spent a year in Iraq before their wedding and he has spent another year in Iraq since their wedding day. Their son was eight months old when her husband left the second time. She graduated from BYU where she took a lot of theater make-up classes. That's where she learned to transform a human into a television star.

And that's her story. And the best part of my day was hearing it. My favorite part of any day is hearing people's stories. I know I ask too many questions. I just can't help but ask my professor why he loves Dante though. And I want to know how my haircutter's husband's application for a visa to come over from Palestine is coming. I just want to know.

A good friend of mine told me, "Laura, your life is an open book and you read it to people." And it's true; that statement has become legend. But what is more true is that I want other other people to read their life books to me too. In my ideal world, everyone's life would be an open book that they would read to people.

In my memoir writing class every Tuesday/Thursday, we read each other our stories. We write our thoughts and memories and then we read them out loud. When I pass fellow students from that class on non-Tuesday/Thursdays, we look into each other's eyes and there is understanding and depth in the gesture. I might not even know their name, but I know their story. And they know mine.

Tell your story. I want to hear it. And have no doubts that I'll keep telling you mine.

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