Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Enduring Friendships

P1080298Two wise sayings ring through my mind as I write this. The first I heard earlier this week. I was  coming out of my local Sainsbury’s shop with a copy of the day’s Guardian newspaper under my arm. The front-page headline was about Donald Trump and when the Security Guard at the shop door saw it, he made a suitably disparaging remark which led to us having a long conversation.  The conversation came to an end with this remark, all the more memorable for the rich Jamaican tones in which it was said:

‘No one is intelligent by size but by heart and by reason.’

The second of my wise sayings was said to me on 24th October exactly ten years ago. And why do I remember the date so well? Because 23rd October is my birthday and this remark was made to me on the following day. You’ll see why from the story below. It’s a personal tale, one of a collection of such tales I’ve been writing. Enduring Friendships is the title I’ve given this one – and with a modicum of intelligence you’ll be able to work out from it exactly how old I’ll be tomorrow.

Enduring Friendships: a personal tale

We were in the Museum of the Native American Indian, one of those impressive Smithsonian treasure-houses in the middle of Washington DC. I was glad to sit down. My back ached and my leg was hurting because, the night before, coming away from the dinner party I’d been sharing with some very old friends, I’d been accidentally tripped to the ground and had fallen with an incredible thump. But today was a new day, the museum was fascinating and the food in its restaurant looked very appealing. Separate booths at the entrance displayed the particular foodstuffs and styles of cooking of different American Indian peoples. Waiting chefs explained what they had to offer and how they’d prepare it and the three of us – me, my husband and our dear friend Mimi – ordered a platter to share. We were told it would be brought to us at our table.

Waiting, we couldn’t help but notice the restaurant staff. Like astronauts or garage attendants, they all wore bright orange suits. One in particular seemed especially cheerful. As if she’d been employed as a greeter rather than for clearing up, she’d bear down on an occupied table and, even before arriving, would have started addressing the people at it. Then she’d usually stay there chatting for far longer than you’d have expected. She seemed to radiate life.

We three were just about finished with our platter when, suddenly, the wonderful woman was homing in on our table. Hardly had she reached us, glowing in her orange suit, than we were wholly engaged not only by the topics she raised but by her rich Southern accent too. Eating was the first of the topics – it was a fairly obvious beginning – but soon she was deeply immersed in explaining why it’s so important for people to pay attention and do things well. By now, she’d moved on to her grandmother – evidently still alive, aged 109 – and all the whys and wherefores of how her grandmother had brought her up. Then suddenly she let us in on the fact that while her actual name was Dolores – she drew our attention to the badge on her chest – her family all knew her as Polly because, as they were always saying, she was like a parrot for talking and had apparently talked like this since birth.

Next she was telling us the date of her birth. ‘Yes,’ she said, drawing herself upright and announcing with pride, ‘This is the first day since my 60th birthday.’ ‘So when’s your birthday?’ I butted in, immediately needing to double-check what she’d said. For Dolores had already begun to feel like a bit of a soul-mate, a storyteller and a lover of life. And now, it seemed, we shared something else.

P1080310‘Yesterday,’ Dolores replied. ‘October 23rd.’ ‘So’s mine,’ I said nodding my head. And a moment later, marvellously spontaneously, we were giving each other an enormous hug. It didn’t seem to matter that we were probably also shrieking like two bright macaws. Across continents and colour and cultures – for, as she’d already told us, Dolores was half American-Indian, half Afro-American – here were two people who shared a birthday and, patently, a huge desire and love for communication.

But of all the things Dolores said, the one I remember best was one of her grandmother’s sayings. It felt especially apt on that particular day and not only because old and continuing friendships were the reason for that Washington trip. I also happen to believe – and not only because of Dolores – that something akin to friendship can arise and remain important when, in terms of actual time, it has been experienced for no more than a very few minutes. You may not concur. Yet I think you’ll accept that Dolores’ grandmother’s saying is worthy of thought:

‘Do not count your age in years but in the number of your enduring friendships.’

PS: Thinking back to the reds of last week, a red candle and a red sunrise seem appropriate for this week’s illustrations.

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4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Enduring Friendships”

  1. Mimi Says:

    How did I not know tomorrow is your birthday–? I hope it is a happy one, and that you have at least as many more as Polly’s grandmother.
    Yes, that was a wonderful day. Now you’ve got to come back for the new African American Museum.

    Lots of love and thank you for reminding me of such happiness.

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Mimi, Yes, we have to come back to see the new African American museum, let alone to see you. I’ve been reading about the new museum. It sounds great. Many thanks for your birthday message. I had a great time. Much love, Mary

  3. Jean Says:

    Ha ha — Great blog — I enjoyed that and Happy Birthday Mary — I’m also 60 plus 10 this year. Have a story and friend filled day tomorrow and I send you a big hug and a X — Jean

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Thanks Jean. I had a lovely day. The sun shone, literally and metaphorically. All best wishes, Mary

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