Sunday, August 2, 2009
I always begin my Introduction to Sociology classes with a simple question. I write it on the board: What is your story?
They are all interesting, I explain. All of them worthy of laughter and tears. No matter how "ordinary" their lives, there is beauty, and mystery, and peculiarity to each and everyone of us.
Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I am a people watcher. I can't help but notice everyone around me all the time.
An older man, overweight and with an unsightly and bloodied cast on his nose entered the store at the same time as I did. He had two young girls with him, I supposed they were his granddaughters. One (though she was taller than me) was around twelve, and the other maybe ten. They were enormous. I am not a person who thinks being round is wrong... but these children were more than round.
I followed them by accident. Every time I turned a corner they were there. Going through the produce I heard him call the older one "stupid" because there were no cakes in that aisle. And then she yelled back at him that she wasn't because "see the cake is right here!"as she held up the yellow sponge cakes sold next to strawberries.
I watched them interact because I couldn't help myself. The kids pulled each others hair and poked at one another. They whined and received whatever they wanted as the cart filled higher and higher with soda and snacks.
In the sale aisle I was behind them and I watched the older girl take a marshmallow out of an already opened bag. She did it secretly, not knowing I could see. She held her hand behind her and proceeded to drag the marshmallow across the front of the shelves, picking up dust and god knows what else. I kept hoping "put it down, put it down..." but at the end of the aisle, she did what I feared she might. She popped it into her mouth.
Why did she do that? Who were these people? Why was she punishing herself so?
I can't stop thinking about her, that marshmallow girl. I can't help trying to figure out a way to un sad her story. How to write a new one for her.
And isn't that how we get our "people?" my writer friends? Can't you see that this girl will haunt me until I tell it right for her? Until I make a past and a present and a future that explain what that small yet decidedly important action meant?
Life is so interesting, sad, funny, fascinating, and extraordinary when we are looking. The problem is, sometimes we forget to look.