May 2, 2016

Bus Stories From the Sidelines and the Stage

Nearly twenty years ago, I climbed aboard the city bus I always took to get home. I said hello to the driver and smiled at a lady sitting across the aisle. As the ride continued, I could feel her eyes on me. Staring.

You’re The Babygirl, aren’t you? You’re Geneva’s Babygirl.

Here I was on the brink of 30 years-old, but someone knew that I was The Babygirl from long ago. She was a long-time church member who I didn’t recognize or know.

She began to tell me about my grandparents, my great-grandparents, my only cousin and an aunt and an uncle – all of whom passed long before I was born. The bus rattled on, and I sat open-mouthed as she then told the story of my siblings and me being born.

…and that oldest boy, Geneva nearly missed the Christmas program having him. She went on about my sister’s birth, then my other brother and finally me. …we didn’t even know Geneva was pregnant, and one day she came to church with a baby. That was you.

Past generations told stories face-to-face or experienced them from the sidelines like my bus friend. Nothing about anything I had done hopping on the bus that day earned her endearment; her smile and genuine warmth toward me was purely because she knew my story.

I thought of this as I remembered walking in an auditorium yesterday as a fresh-faced young man held open door. I loved him right away and wanted to hug him because I knew his story.

He’s my friend’s son, and I had never met him before, but I knew him through my friend’s stories and from social media pics (albeit few) of him, as well as his sister. Which is why I had to hold myself back from instinctively hugging him. That would’ve just been creepy.

I felt like what I imagine my bus friend from twenty years ago must have felt when I politely smiled at her from across the aisle.

The irony of it all is that this happened yesterday at Milwaukee’s Listen To Your Mother Show, a nationwide series of shows that give a microphone, a spotlight and a stage to moms and non-moms who tell stories of their motherhood journey.

Photo credit: K. Miller
We told stories – some of them painful, others redemptive and introspective, and still others, funny. The audience connected to our stories, and took away whatever resonated with them personally.

We felt the freedom that goes with telling our personal story and having it be heard, and the opportunity to be known – not defined by -- our occupation, or to whom we're married or if we're married at all.

But I’d like to think yesterday’s storytelling even went beyond that. It fell on ears of people who will know our children through us and love them because of the stories we shared.

Who knows? Maybe one day twenty years from now, our unsuspecting kids will have a bus friend of their own to remind them of the stories that make them who they are.

Preshow Shenanigans

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