Thursday, February 12, 2009

Story Time

On Friday, I made good on a Christmas present I gave to my friend Gwyn and took her to the Story Corps booth at Foley Square in lower Manhattan to interview her as part of the StoryCorps project. As many of you know, this is one of my pet projects this year and one of my favorite organizations.

Gwyn and I have been friends since sophomore year of high school when we bonded in girls gym over a mutual aversion to running during soccer. Our friendship blossomed, and over the years we have ridden life's waves (some small ripples, others tsunami-like) and shared our stories.

The Story Corps booth is a small building that sits in front of the courthouse. There is a compact recording studio that just fits the equipment, facilitator and the interviewer and interviewee. After a brief sound check and directions, Nzingha, our facilitator gave us the go sign and the interview began.

At first it seemed like filling up 40 minutes of time would be hard but as Nzingha assured us, the opposite usually turns out to be true. It was, by the time she gave us the ten minute warning I felt like we had just gotten started.

Although Gwyn and I didn't talk about anything new, we also never had the chance to really talk about the details of some of the pivotal events in her life. I was struck by how my memory of some of the events in her life had glossed over a good deal of the reality. For instance when she talked about losing her sister and the trip to the hospital, I never realized that her kids were with her husband when he met her there. When she said that in the interview I thought, "of course they were, why don't you remember that?"

This is the most amazing thing about listening to someone tell a story, even if it is a shared event, there is always a fresh meaning to take from it, and a new way to understand.

Gwyn and I also talked about our friendship and what meeting each other at that time in our lives meant to us. Now that we are in our forties, that is something that is easier to see, and appreciate. It is hard to know now, or even imagine what road our lives would have taken had we not found each other on that soccer field over thirty years ago.

We wrapped up the interview and left a pile of used tissues in the basked (lots of crying -- apparently this happens at most of the interviews.) Nzingha took a photo of us as part of the project and burned a CD for Gwyn. We signed release forms to agree to have the recording entered into the Library of Congress and said our good-byes.
We left together. To the rest of the world we were just two women walking through the square, but to us, we were two friends who had taken the time to remember and cherish the gift of having each other.


Allison said...

Aww, Teri, now I am crying. What a wonderful and cooll thing to do.

Your comments about memories jive completely with my observation -- maybe it's the 40's thing (and BTW, how did that happen!?)... Recently I have connected with a group of old friends via Facebook. I have known a couple of them since I was 10; some I have been in touch with over the years, others not so much. The fascinating thing is to hear what they remember about certain events -- some of which I do not recall at all, yet they tell me I was there. (Perhaps they are gas-lighting me...) Clearly, each of us has a filter, and it's been very interesting to see how those filters have evolved over the years, and what piece(s) of a memory stick or not.

Teri Coyne said...

Thanks for the comment Allison -- maybe it is also a "40s" thing to reconnect to people from the past and to remember things in a new way? For me, it's definately from a much happier perspective.