Thanks to everyone who came out last Thursday for the show. It was great to see so many first-timers telling! We also had our first major technical glitch too as my son got dropped from the call just as I was introducing him. Next time I’ll have him drive over and sip off the WiFi in the driveway to make sure he stays online. On the other hand, I did notice my blood pressure go down a bit when I realized he’d gotten bumped off. Was it the universe telling me I needed to have more time to prepare for his story? Possibly. All I know is that the family secrets are safe for one more month. 

We started off with Melody, a first-timer from Canada who told a story about how she stopped believing she was a failure. Halfway through her story, I started smiling as I realized she was telling us about winning Teacher of the Year and at the same time telling us she felt like an imposter. I feel the same way, Melody. I could win a Pulitzer Prize and still feel like I’m fooling everyone. Melody talked about how important it is to write your own story and not let anyone else write it for you. I’m glad she wrote this story. It was the perfect way to begin the night.

Next was Zoe who told us the story of her middle name. It was a story that took 50 years to unfold and I’m glad we finally got to hear it. What’s even more amazing is that three years ago one of my good friends took one look at Zoe and said, “That’s not her real name. She’s not a Zoe.” I said, “What do you mean that’s not her real name? You don’t even know her.” He said, “Listen, I know a Zoe when I see one. That ain’t no Zoe.”

Now I have to call Mark and tell him he was kinda-sorta right. Zoe’s first name is Wendy and her middle name is Zoe. But how did he know?!?! Does she walk like a Wendy? Does she dress like a Wendy? Here’s another thing we learned from Zoe’s story. New York City has a Department of Mental Hygiene. I can only assume everyone there has been laid off since 1975.

Next up was Susie, another first-timer who came to us from Southern California. It was a beautiful story of a woman searching for her birth mother after growing up in a family she didn’t have much in common with. I wish Susie could have told this story in person because there was a moment about five minutes in where I know the audience would have gasped and then burst out laughing. I can still picture Susie’s mom getting that phone call, running over to turn down the TV, and then hearing a voice on the phone say, “I’m your baby.” 

Thank you Susie for that wonderful story. Many of us stayed online after the show was over to get more details. That’s the part I miss the most about our regular shows. Some of the best moments of FGS have been standing around afterward meeting and talking to the folks show shared stories that night. One day we’ll be doing that again. My future goal is to figure out how to keep all the cool new people we’ve met from around the country stay involved with FGS once we go back to our Starbucks.

After Susie, we had another first-timer, Emily who gave us a peek into the inner life of a school teacher during COVID. I’ve seen a lot of news stories about what it’s like for parents to deal with kids learning from home but I haven’t seen many teachers talk about what it’s like for them. It wasn’t until Emily’s story that I thought about what it must be like to have to manage 20 different browser tabs while talking to a screen full of black squares. Is it acceptable to send donuts or pizza to teachers during COVID? Can Uber Eats deliver wine? It seems like a lot of teachers might need a weekly wine delivery from parents right now. I sense a business opportunity here. Someone get on this! 

Behnaz shared a story of what it was like trying to get a visa to come to America from Iran to go to college here. Just as I was starting to wonder why she was so adamant about going to college in America she said that there are only three ways you can leave your parents’ house in Iran. You can go to college. You can get married. Or you can die. So now in my mind, I see that visa as a combination of Willy Wonka golden ticket and a stay of execution. I’m glad you made it out Behnaz. Welcome to America where millions of people are going to college, getting married, and still living with their parents 🙂

Our final teller was Katie. She told the story of going back to her childhood home in Michigan to collect the artwork she’d stored in her parent’s house as an undergraduate in college. So much of what Katie said in that story resonated with me. 

How much is your art a part of who you are? Does it matter if you draw, paint, sing or dance if no one remembers you when you’re gone? If you’re any kind of artist you’re going to do what you do whether anyone sees it or not. We do it because it hurts too much not to. Katie said toward the end of her story, “My artwork is an expression of my deep gratitude for being alive.” This is what I Iove about storytelling and FGS. We get to share what it feels like to be alive in the moment that we’re telling and the moment we’re telling about. This is why it’s so important to have a supportive audience like we always get. Just like Katie has to stand in front of an easel with a paintbrush, the people who walk up to the microphone at FGS are there because they have to be. Thank you all for showing up every month and giving us a place to share our stories.

Katie worked on that story in a class taught by Unexpected Productions. If you want to learn how to share stories that resonate with a room full of strangers, I can’t recommend a better place to start. Their next class starts Jan 10 and runs through Feb 21. I’ve enjoyed every story I’ve ever heard that came out of this class. I don’t know what they’re doing over there but it’s working. This is a free plug for them. I’m not getting anything in return except the knowledge that next March I’m going to hear some great stories. 

One last plug for a worthy show. Melissa Reaves from Story Fruition is hosting the second Melanin Stories Matter show on Oct 24. The headliner that night is one of my all-time favorite tellers. His name is Ray Christian and it’s a crime you don’t already know him. He’s been on The Moth many times and runs his own podcast called What’s Ray Sayin’. Google him. Find him on all the stages and podcasts he’s been on over the years. The guy is amazing. I would have been tuning in to Melissa’s show whether I knew any of the tellers or not but knowing Ray will be there makes it extra special.

https://melaninstoriesmatter.com/

That’s all for now. Thanks to everyone who read this far 🙂

Our next show is November 19. The theme is “Gifts – Stories of getting what you need.” I’ll get the invite out as soon as I can.

It looks like the Zoom recording turned out ok so let me know if you told a story last Thursday and you’d like the audio recording of your performance. I don’t have permission to share stories with anyone except the person who told them so this is only available to the folks who told a story and would like a copy of it.

See you next month!

Paul
freshgroundstories@gmail.com