Telling the Stories

I’ve heard that story before.

I hear that complaint sometimes, and I object, as if telling a story once or more than once is quite enough. However, that’s assuming that the story is composed only of the facts, the circumstances at the time the event took place.

Story is a recollection of something that changed us. A story has to be retold until it is heard. I have a story to tell, and I keep telling it until I believe it has been heard, really heard, and not while the half-listener” is texting or reading a book or folding laundry or trying to get off the phone in order to do something else..

“I have come to light a fire on this earth and how I yearn for that” said Jesus of Nazareth. Whatever he meant, he kept lighting fires, kept telling the stories, until they crawled under the skin, where some were warmed and others were irritated as hell.

I don’t know why I’m here or if my purpose really matters all that much. I do know that my life is full of stories – events which changed me – and these stories are needing to be heard, really heard, or I will burst. Does it matter if anyone listens? I don’t know. I think it does. To be a complete, whole, and healthy person, I need to be myself and I need to believe that my journey … which now intersects with the journeys of all the people in my circle … and theirs have a meaning together, more than the personal meaning to me.

I felt something deeply – sadness, wonder – after reading Stephen King’s very solid novel about time travel entitled 11/22/63. That story, about a man who time-travels to try to prevent the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, is part of my story. I remember the day,  do all the others who were conscious then …. Where I was and what I was doing and what I felt ….  lonely and yet somehow connected to the cosmos …. As people – strangers and friends – fled to churches or fled inside themselves, watching every televised moment of the unfolding of events in late fall of 1963, when I was eighteen. And suddenly the innocent, bright image that was like Camelot was covered with scarlet, then like grew very, very gray from that day onward.

I remember calling Aunt Rose to wish her Happy Birthday. She told me what she had just seen on TV. Walter Cronkite was interrupting the scheduled programming to announce that the President had been shot. Before I could formulate any verbal response, I mumbled something to my favorite aunt and said we’d talk later. Shaken beyond anything I’d known, I turned from the payphone to see my classmates, trickling into the day student lounge, telling them what I had heard, then having it affirmed over and over by girls who were just preparing to grab their book bags to go home and study all weekend long.  No homework was done that weekend. We were stunned…. Feeling nothing and everything. Some silly person said we should go to the chapel… I say “silly” because you can’t get something from a chapel that you cannot find in a small locker-room lounge where you could cry and hug your friends and wonder “out loud” what was happening to our world … to the whole world.

Maybe prayers could magically heal the President, mortally wounded, but they did not. Perhaps going to a chapel makes sense if you find courage there, but not if you go mechanically, to fade into the crowd, to squelch your deep-down need to scream, “It’s not fair!!!” Ladylike behavior trumped all back then, and we kept quiet … that is, we did not babble or let out meaningless, yet pungent curses.  We held it together. Oh, if only I’d been a woman and not a child then. If only I’d refused to stay go and simply taken the city bus home to Mom and Dad and sibs! Perhaps I wouldn’t still feel that I was cheated not only of my innocence and my President, but also my right to spend those next days in my own way, After the weekend, we returned to chaos.

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