A conversation

“What time do we need to leave?”

“We have to leave no later than 12:45,” I said.

“OK, well, better tell me 12:30 so I won’t be late.”

Please oh please don’t be late. I said to myself. My sister is always late. Usually she calls, but she’ll call when she is supposed to be somewhere and say she’s on her way. I don’t know why she does it. Maybe its because she always tries to fit too many things into a day. Maybe she’s afraid she won’t have enough time. That life is too short. That maybe her life is too short. Sometimes its hard to get mad at her, because I know she’s right.

“12:30” I said, then took a deep breath, quietly, trying not to make it sound like an exasperated sigh. “Please don’t be late. This is really important to me.” I repeated “12:30” at least six times before hanging up the phone.

I had made our appointment for the StoryCorps mobile booth two weeks earlier. I had a hell of a time getting through the crashing computer system and the phones, and trying to pin my sister down on a date and time that she would be available.

Thursday February 23.

Debby showed up on time, 12:30. We got to Balboa Park early, but the people before us had gotten there late, so we had a bit of time to kill. We chatted with the local KPBS volunteer, N.S. “No Say” Wright
and wandered aimlessly for a few minutes. Soon, Jackie, one of the StoryCorps facilitators invited us into the booth. She gave us the 411 on how the whole think works, gave us paperwork to fill out, and asked what we were here to talk about.

I could hardly get a word out without crying. I thought for sure I was going to totally blow this, that I would just cry through the whole thing and my voice would be a blubbering mess, incomprehensible… Debby said, “I don’t know she didn’t really tell me much of anything.” Which of course was not totally true. I had told her about the StoryCorps and that I wanted to sort of interview her about mom, and that the recording would be in the Library of Congress. Forever. And, I sent her a link to the website….

I finally managed to cry/talk something along the lines of “I want to remember our mom who died in 1978.”

When it was our turn to go into the recording studio, Jackie got us settled into a sort of restuarant booth like table rigged up with a couple of big microphones. Jackie’s job, she told, was to manage the sound equipment, take notes for cataloging the recording, and keep the time. She also said she might ask for clarification if we talk about something or someone and its not clear…

It was a wonderful experience. Too often when I talk to my sister, we have so many other things going on. People in and out and around. Dinners to be cooked, dishes to be cleaned phones, televisions, music playing… this was just the two of us. Quiet time. Reflective conversation. Remembering or mother.

I managed to pull myself together, and only cried a couple of times. The more amazing thing was that Debby actually cried. She never cries. She’s the one who always has it together. Solid as a rock. Composed. She drives me crazy but I love her anyway.

We received a CD of the conversation, with the instruction that we can make as many copies as we like, give them to as many people as we like, but we cannot sell it.
I may post snippets here on my blog if I can figure out how to do that.

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