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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seanchai's Tales

When Seanchai was a little girl, and things felt beyond her control, as they sometimes do, she’d make up little stories in her head to help her get through things. She had this one little character she called Stacey, which was actually her birth name, and she’d imagine Stacey always doing what she knew in her own heart was the right thing to do.

Once she thought about it long enough, Seanchai usually did know the right thing to do, but didn’t always have the courage to do it. It often felt too risky. Like she remembers this one time that a new girl had moved into her small-town neighborhood, a mod big-city girl who smoked cigarettes and drank and had lots of boyfriends back home and deep dark juicy secrets to share. Sonya was two years older than Seanchai and her friends. But since there were no girls Sonya’s age in the neighborhood, she broke into their little group quickly, and became the big sister who told everybody how to get in trouble without getting caught ... 'cause no matter what it was Sonya had been there and done that. She knew everything about everything. Whether it was drugs, boys, sex, how to get tattoos without your parents knowing, she'd have the answer. She had all the answers and at least 5 wildly entertaining stories to go with each one.

Seanchai was amused by Sonya’s tales, but knew she was lying at least half the time. Well, not lying really. She suspected there was a kernel of truth to Sonya’s stories, but that most of them were simply about people she admired and wished to emulate, even if they did wind up in reform school, which is where parents once sent kids they could not handle.

Seanchai only knew one girl who’d been sent to reform school, and that girl’s parents had told her parents that they sent Patty there because they had other younger children and they were afraid Patty would be a bad influence.

When Seanchai told her grandma about Patty going to reform school, her grandmother said that’s just “a load of malarkey,” which is what her grandmother said about a lot of things. There’s a reason they call it reform school, Seanchai’s grandma told her. It’s because kids have be reformed, because their foundation’s screwed up from the start. The reason for Patty’s troubles, she declared, is that no one ever listened to her. If people would just listen to people, she said, they would know how to deal with others, and successfully navigate life. Parents expect, she says, that their kids are like them, but they’re so not, she said laughing. We have to come to become acquainted with them, without our own baggage, she says, and that only happens by being quiet, and listening.

These weren’t empty words. Seanchai knew her grandmother had mastered the art of listening. In fact, her grandmother was the one to whom she told all her stories as a kid, and grandma never tried to interpret her stories. She simply listened and asked Seanchai questions that led Seanchai to realize what her own stories really meant, because sometimes, even while she’d written those stories in her composition books, she didn’t fully grasp the underlying meaning until she’d talked them through with her grandmother.

She told her grandma about Sonya too, and how she knew that Sonya was a storyteller, and had talent for it too, but that she was using that talent to turn Seanchai’s friends away from her, and that some people were falling for it.

First, her grandmother, who’d been the one to dub Stacey “Seanchai,” explained that Seanchai did mean “storyteller” but that it’s original meaning went back to old Irish history and laws that weren’t written down but related through stories. But all the stories we tell ourselves and others, she told Seanchai, and even the ones that only exist in our heads or our hearts, are valid, and important, and every word we write comes from our own history. Sure we bring imagination to it, she says, and we should, to meet our challenges. But from our own personal history, she assured, we develop the “laws” of our life. The law, she says, is basically truth. If we listen, and we operate in honesty, she said, no other laws are needed.

“As for Sonya,” she added, “you see her soul as a fellow storyteller, and you will know what to do about that. She's as lost as the rest of us, but you can help her find her way.” That conversation stood out in Seanchai’s mind to this day. ... "You will know what to do."

But it was hard for Seanchai to deal with Stacey, who acted so meanly toward her. She kinda didn’t like Sonya for doing that, but then she thought about it long and hard, and wrote another story in which she imagined telling a little tale of her own to Sonya, about a girl who deep inside was afraid to put her whole self out there, but knows that if she could truly find the words to express and share all of it, that people would probably understand, or maybe they wouldn’t. What's important is doing it, because ultimately, one of the most challenging and exciting and rewarding risks you can take, is to be completely honest, and know that some may not accept you. What matters is that you’ve been real, and if you have the courage to do that, you can overcome a lot in this life.

Many years later, Seanchai and Sonya still keep in touch, about life and the stories they continue to tell themselves when their worlds feels out of control and they don’t have the answers they feel they need. But then, Seanchai will hear in her mind the reassuring voice of her grandmother, saying “When the time comes, you will know what to do. You'll just know.”

Sometimes it really is that simple. And usually, she does know. The little voice inside tells her when the time is right.

But is she doesn’t listen to that little voice, she also will hear her grandmother saying, "Seanchai Stacey O'Connor, you had better listen to that wise little voice, because if you don't, well that's just a load of malarkey. Pure malarkey.”

Seanchai's in a newspaper box --- some big fat box that has Citylink and a Spanish-language newspaper in it, just in front of Southland Shopping Center on State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale. Not the newspaper boxes by the Dunkin Donuts ... the other ones by the mailbox.

2 Comments:

At 12:59 AM, Blogger Doug said...

A beautiful story...just when i needed one.

Thanks

 
At 2:15 AM, Blogger Mary Tiler More said...

Thank you for reading, and for commenting. I'm happy that you found a late-night story, when you needed one. Sometimes we all need a story, just to get us through the day.

 

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