This photo of a solemn little woman was sent to me by a cousin. “This is Granny Hyde,” she said. I sit and look at this face and it just bothers me to death because I keep expecting her to say something to me. And I regret that I can only imagine her secret. Because knowing the Hyde’s, I bet it’s a doozy. The kind of thing I’d write about. Probably why she keeps her mouth shut.
In my family, if you sit around long enough, the women will start to talk. Stay at the table after the eating is done and the men will wander off to stand in the back yard. There’s a familiar repertoire that we stick to, beginning with what our kids are up to, running on to the health of our parents, then ourselves, a few jokes at the expense of our husbands and brothers, but nothing we haven’t heard before. If you’re visiting, we’ll make sure to laugh a little louder.
Clean up the dishes and by then we’re telling our childbirth horror stories like we’re comparing war wounds. Wander out into the flower beds and you’ll get news of the community. Gossip makes a garden grow, didn’t you know?
By then, the sweat will start to tickle the back of your neck and if you’re lucky, you’ll settle on a porch some place with a rocking chair or a glider and a glass of something cold and sweet.
And this is where you get your money’s worth. Where you want to be more than any other place on earth, if you’re like me. You won’t believe what will happen.
No apologies. No censoring. You’ll hear girlhood dreams. Settle back for yarns of young love, heartbreak, sorrow – and maybe where she buried him if she’s got something good in her tea. You’ll get ghost stories, the good kind about babies that still cry or soldiers that are still trying to find home or old dogs that come running across fields years after they’ve gone to the happy hunting grounds. You’ll hear about midnight moonshine runs and gypsies and Cherokee Indian gold buried on a creek bank and never found again.
And trust me, you will believe every word of it. Later, you’ll go and look at yourself in the mirror and it will be the stories that stare back at you, because without even knowing it, somehow they’ve always been your own.
I wonder, did you ever listen? What stories do you hear? What stories will you tell?