One thing I’ve been trying to do lately is take more chances. Both my parents were old when they had me and they grew up during the Depression so a strong sense of fear and dread was instilled in me at an early age. My father told me a man could drown in a teaspoon of water and my mother made me learn how to tap dance in case they both died and I was forced to sing and dance on the corner to earn my keep in the orphanage. Every week I learned a new way to die or go broke.
Naturally, risk-taking was frowned on. Unfortunately, neither of my parents died when I was eight and I never got to hang out with the cool kids at the orphanage so all of those terrifying what-ifs just sunk down inside me, waiting to bubble up to the surface when I became an adult.
Years later, when my son was turning 10, I was went to a toy store in downtown Olympia to get him a telescope for his birthday. It was a big store and I didn’t know where anything was so I went straight to the counter to ask if they had telescopes, something he’d been wanting for months. When the woman behind the counter turned around I was speechless. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
“Can I help you?” she said.
I said, “Uh, my son…uh, is…he’s turning….uh.”
Not only can I not remember how old my kid is I can’t even remember what I came in for. So I grabbed the first thing I saw just to give myself something to do. It was an ant farm. There was a big display of ant farms on the counter and I bought one because I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
A few days later I went back determined to buy a telescope and to try to start up a conversation with The Most Beautiful Woman In The World. But the same thing happened. She said, “Hi, did your son like the ant farm?” I stammered out, “Yeah, he loved it. Absolutely loved it.”
This was a total lie. Taran had no idea what to do with an ant farm. In fact, it didn’t even come with ants. We had to order them through the mail so basically I bought him a pile of sand for his birthday. And a promise to get him a telescope the next week “when they were in.”
I finally managed to say, “What he really wanted was a telescope. Do you have any of those?”
The Most Beautiful Woman In The World said they didn’t sell telescopes so I bought another ant farm. Or actually, another pile of antless sand pressed between two sheets of plastic. Because I couldn’t just say, “Hey, you sound like an interesting person would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?” I ended up pretending to be part of this insane family that spent every evening staring at empty ant farms.
The next week I went back determined to have a non-ant related conversation with this woman. You know what happened? I bought two ant farms! I told her it was for two of Taran’s friends who also loved ants. Now I was pretending to live in a neighborhood filled with kids who can’t wait to get their hands on mail-order bugs.
Finally, months later, we met again outside the toy store and became friends. We never dated but she was one of the smartest, funniest people I ever knew and I was happy I got to be in her circle of friends for two years until she moved to Boston to get her masters degree in writing.
It’s been 14 years since I bought all those ant farms and I’m slowly getting better at taking risks. Last fall I asked a woman out for tea and she accepted. We ended up dating for three months and it was very sweet. Even though we’re just friends now I feel like I did something really big in just asking her out. Maybe the world isn’t as dangerous as I think it is. My mother would be upset that I don’t remember how to tap dance but I’ve picked up some other skills since then so I think I can still earn my keep at the orphanage.
If you’ve read all the way to this point then you deserve to finally be told the theme for next month’s show which is: Leap of Faith – Stories of Taking Chances. Tell us a story about how a time when you jumped in with both feet and hoped for the best.
Remember to practice out loud on friends or pets and keep it under 8 minutes.
The rules for stories are below but you know the kind we’re looking for: true stories that happened to you that still mean something to you days, months or years later.
I hope to see you at our next show on Thursday, March 26, 7:00pm at the Roy St Cafe.