Did you ever think your personal life had enough twists and turns to put Scarlet and Rhett to shame? Did you ever think that your cousin Teddy or your Great Aunt Miriam would be fodder for a story that would be passed down generation to generation? What about that celery-and-water trick your dog does? Or the straws-in-the-nose trick performed by your own kid?
Everyone’s life is a best seller. If only we could get our story into print, onto the big screen, everyone would see how unique our out-of-whack our family and friends really are. The funny thing is, if you take a look around you, you’ll see your story is not so very different from the person next to you.
Take the world of the working stiff. Ninety nine percent of the people you talk to have someone they work with that drives them crazy. There’s always a co-worker who talks with gum or food in their mouth, has a vocabulary made up of five or six words, or leaves a trail of potato chip crumbs from their desk to the bathroom, or squeaks their chair back and forth and back and forth back and forth. There’s someone who knows someone who knows someone who can get you a great deal, is sick twice as often and you or whose symptoms are enough to scare the hair off a rabbit, or are the first to complain that they are overworked, underpaid, and misunderstood. (Wait! That’s me!) There’s a dozen stories right there.
Then there is the world of family. A labyrinth of people, traditions and bloodlines that, for better or worse, are with us all of our lives. We have kids that cross the line between naughty and nasty, mothers who are martyrs, fathers who are dictators, spouses who are inconsiderate. I imagine we all have a brother-in-law or sister-in-law who is linked to the planet Mars. We have the sister that collects bobble heads, and the uncle who makes his own vodka from potatoes in his garden. We have cousins who like to ski in their underwear and others who pull out calculators for the tip on a three-dollar sandwich.
There is always fodder for stories in everyday gossip. This one is cheating on that one, this one did this at work and that one had the nerve to do that after the party Saturday night. All the whining, cajoling, and caterwauling we do to ourselves and others is enough to make a bartender quit serving alcohol. I’m fat. I’m stupid. My brother-in-law is fat and stupid. I should have said grilled, not fried. I could have been prom queen. I should have been prom queen. My husband’s friend from bowling is the prom queen. We have enough dirt on ourselves that we could give Jackie Collins a run for her money.
I listen to myself enough to know that one of me is enough in this world. I enjoy laughing at my own jokes, getting my own innuendos, but I think a book full of me would be too much for even patient readers. That is why everyone should show off everyone around us who march to the beat of a different drummer. There’s Grandpa with his howling hound dog Bubba, and your best friend who can quote all of the dialogue from Spaceballs. We all know someone who is on their third spouse or their fourth child; we have girlfriends with childbirth stories that make us shiver and in-laws with enough fishing stories to fill a library. I have an irritable acquaintance? You have five irritable acquaintances. You have a cat that sings? I have a chicken that sings.
The world is not as big as you think. We all have people in our lives that we adore, all have people we could do without. The loves in our lives may be special and personal, but the irritations we experience are universal. Perhaps that is what connects us all. Our idiosyncrasies are their idiosyncrasies. My pain is your pain.
We all walk through life on thin ice, isolated, thankful for the little things. So to counter our fear of isolation, we fill our history book with memories of amusing personalities and odd family members whose unique experiences bring us larger-than-life characters. How else could you explain the uncle that wears boat shoes to a wedding? How do explain a child who wears the same pair of underwear for soccer games every week for four months? What can you say about one who has a room full of unicorns or a garden full of gnomes?
Sometimes there are no scientific explanations for the phenomenon of friends and family. Write about them. Talk about them. People are strange. Be proud of those who color your life. It is the spirally, pretzelly people in the world that make it interesting. Just know that your strange is no stranger than my strange. We’re just all different cracks in the same wall of life.
It’s just that some cracks are wider than others.