Finding Yourself in the Stories of Other People
By Sam Payne
In the studio today, the Apple Seed team worked on an episode featuring stories that bring back particular memories for team members. Sharing a version of “The Monkey’s Paw” by Jim May had Deidrene remembering her brother, who made her watch scary movies when she was a kid (including “The Shining,” the memory of which still makes Deidrene afraid of hallways). The Monkey’s Paw was one of the first scary stories I ever heard (it was shared with me by Frank and Gordon White, brothers who babysat my brother and me when we were kids; and by “babysat” I mean “terrorized”). We shared a story by Kate Campbell about going back, as an adult songwriter, to “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a source for a commissioned work, only to discover more richness and depth there than she had remembered from reading the book in High School. That prompted a conversation between Deidrene, Whitney, and me about coming back to stories after years away from them to find them richer, more complex, and more rewarding than we had remembered. For me, that meant remembering reading – as an adult – after many years away from it, the story of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament, and realizing that it was, in many ways, a story about my brother and me.
Increasingly, that’s what stories seem to do in my life. I read a lot with the people in my life -- read out loud with Suzanne, or Suzanne and Leah, or with Sammy. But it seems that whatever book we’re reading gets laid aside every few minutes, as it opens the door to stories we’ve shared in real life. Likewise, we attend a lot of live storytelling performances, and sometimes the show ends to find us lingering in the seats, sharing true tales of our own with each other. Talking about those stories together – unpacking and cherishing them – is the gift given to us by the books we read and the performances we see. The books and the performances open doors through which we walk to find ourselves.