Brand building through storytelling

Reasons for loving

Every year around this time, I go out for dinner with an old friend to celebrate our birthdays. Hers is a few days later than mine, or maybe a few days before.

It might have been last year that she looked at me across a table strewn with bits of coloured ribbon and said, “Why do women obsess about getting older? Look at how good life is for both of us. We love our work, we love our families. We’re full of life. We’re beautiful.” She raised her glass with such exuberance that she seemed to be embracing half the room.

Vital and beautiful, that was my friend. In her mid-50s, she had grown into her natural elegance with an air of inevitability, like a hasty sketch that evolves line by line into a glorious painting. We were at least a decade older than all the other diners, but no one was having more fun.

We met in our 20s at a magazine that long ago morphed into something else. I remember her delivering a manuscript in which two half-pages had been stitched together with yarn (decades ahead of the recycling movement, she was already on the case). She remembers my vague talk about starting a fiction magazine. If not for each other, we’d both have forgotten these details of our own histories.

In early fall she toasted me at my book launch party. On Thanksgiving her house was full of young voices (it’s the kind of house where kids feel free to bring their friends). One perfectly normal morning right around our birthdays, she went to work as usual and felt a sudden need to get to Emergency. She left in such haste, she forgot her purse. Within hours the doctors were asking where the cancer had started and whether it had spread.

I felt as if the space behind my eyes were the Hoover Dam holding back a Colorado River of tears. How to help, what to do? In a note card I thought she’d like, I began to write all the reasons why I love her. I was just warming up when I ran out of space around reason number 7.

Out on the street it was a perfectly normal day. The local beggar collecting spare change, the local gentry shopping for duck breast and raw-milk Brie. As I popped my card through the mail slot, it struck me: Suppose I were to list all my reasons for cherishing the people in my life—including those who, for now, are the picture of health. Suppose I then proclaimed my reasons to the world at full voice.

And then suppose everyone else on this busy corner did exactly the same thing. I stood beside the mailbox at 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon, imagining the scene.People shouting from car windows, throwing down their shopping bags to embrace. “You always help me with my parcels!” “You’re the warmest host I’ve ever known!” “You’re the best son anyone could hope to have!” “I love the way you…!” What a joyful din we’d create. What a chorus of gratitude.

Posted by Rona

Previously posted comments:

Charlene Smith
November 12, 2007 at 2:02AM

Why not start with the local beggar?Why not buy them a cup of coffee and listen to their story?

Why not realize that they figure prominently in your stories?Could it be that they are touching something inside you but your are still afraid to explore?

Maybe you don’t understand it yet but they are trying to teach you to appreciate what you do have in life.

Never forget,in a heartbeat they could be you.So thank that person for reminding you of what you do have to be thankful for.

Rona Maynard
November 12, 2007 at 3:03 AM

Charlene, you always have something perceptive to add. And you remembered my post about the local beggar! Every time I pass the guy, I think to myself, “I still haven’t talked to him.” The most I do is smile. Afraid to explore? Maybe. To acknowledge someone’s humanity at these moments is to be open to the world in its infinite (and sometimes disturbing) variety. There are so many beggars around that I tend to do the opposite and shut down. As a city dweller, I sometimes feel that I’m wearing armour. This is what inspired “Life lessons from my local dweller,” and why I’m still sitting in that particular classroom. I think your other new comment, about “How old is grown-up?” is the perfect reply to “Reasons for loving.” Most of us have so many reasons for loving so many people. With all the omnipresent bad news in the world, that’s truly wonderful news, yet it often goes unspoken until some crisis erupts.

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