Friday, 21 February 2014
I have a thing for stories. Books of course- my lifelong love of reading has been well documented here but I'm not just talking about the stories held between pages bound together. I love connecting with people, finding out what they've done and where they've been. What has made them who they are and where they long to go. I think I've mentioned before that I work in a little café on a Sunday and like many other jobs, it has its fair share of menial tasks and repetition and hardly a vast amount of financial reward, but regardless of that; I look forward to my shift every week. Some people may look down a little on 'café work', especially when it's done by someone who is no longer a penniless student, in possession of a degree and with a couple of career jobs under their belt. I couldn't care less though.
Over the years I've worked in many hospitality jobs at different stages in my life and in numerous places- pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes. All of them brilliant and on occasions, unpleasant in their own way. But the people I've met, the stories I've heard and the lessons I've learned. They are wonderful. There's no life experience like it. Every Sunday now, in the quiet lull of the late afternoon before the dinner rush, I make a tea for one of our regulars (always very milky with one large sugar). He is a 60-something local and we have a chat and set the world to rights. He tells me about the days of his youth in the 70's when the skateboarding movement was being pioneered and he competed against the legendary Z-Boys from America in the first skateboarding championships held in Australia. He reminisces on his past business ventures and what he would have done differently in his marriages and his relationships with his children. In return I tell him about the struggles and joys of life with a young family in these times and my hopes and dreams for the future
Aged five and a half, there is nothing more that Lila likes to hear than anecdotes about when Curt and I were children. What each of us did for fun, places we went to, what we liked and generally how we spent our hours. All the rest of our family members get grilled in the same way and as I re-live my childhood days and beyond, I realise that she is piecing together the fragments of the puzzle that make up our family. Gathering this sense of history is helping her figure out the bigger picture of life and her own sense of belonging within it. There is something pretty wonderful about that. There's nothing like becoming a parent to make you reflect on what has shaped you as a person, the influences and experiences that have defined you and the things you want to repeat with your own family (and of course those you shudder at the mere memory of).
I dearly hope we will manage to raise readers and book lovers, though I can admit I do get a little panicky at the thought of them selecting their own material after a quick glance at the young reader shelves at the library. No doubt there is likely to be a backlash against the numerous tomes offered up from our home shelves in the vein of 'What Katy Did' and 'Goodnight Mister Tom', but the Rainbow Magic fairy books series...it does make me shudder slightly. Actually, I just realised that aged eleven, I greedily consumed the entire back catalogue of the Sweet Valley High series in about two months flat so I should probably get down off my quality reading material high horse. Whilst written stories will always have their place, it's equally important that our children know the value of human stories, of getting out in the world and being open to meeting people of all ages, from diverse backgrounds and different walks of life. I can't wait to hear the stories they tell their own children. To discover which of the memories we are creating now will stand the test of time and to know they will leave behind a legacy of their own past shared through their words.
Image: Lila and Curt. She never gets tired of hearing his stories.