Of conversations and connections

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, April 25, 2019

It’s not often I get to have extended conversations with many people, so when it happens, it’s a treasured treat.

Such was the situation last Friday when I was out at the Suffolk Family YMCA around the time tornado warnings were being issued for the area.

I was there to report a story about its spring break swim program, but when I arrived at the Y, the first tornado warning went out and I, along with everyone else in the building, was steered to the locker rooms to take shelter.

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About a half-hour later, after the warning had expired, the swim program continued, and I went about my way taking photos by the pool, and taking the time for a few interviews.

During the course of those interviews, I got to meet the grandmother of one of the swimmers in the program. Initially, we talked about her impressions of the program, and the pride she felt in watching her granddaughter learn new skills.

But after I had finished the formal part of the interview, and I spoke briefly with her granddaughter, we had the chance to sit and talk.

Without betraying personal details of the conversation, we learned we have some similar family and cultural backgrounds and share common struggles. She made it easy to open up to her, and, as we’re both talkers, we got to learn much about each other over the course of about 30 minutes before the next tornado warning ushered us away once more.

Although she’s close in age to my own mother, it was a lot like what I would have imagined talking to my own grandmother would be like, if either of them were still alive — receiving warm words of wisdom, sprinkled generously with humor and smiles. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a relationship with either of my grandmothers — not because I didn’t want to, but rather because of age and distance. I was too young and didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them, so I never got to know them well.

She was personable and willing to open up to me about things I wouldn’t expect a complete stranger to talk about with someone she had met not even an hour before. I’m not sure I had anything to offer her, but she made that OK and listened intently, as I did to her.

Her words gave me comfort in relating to my own family and were helpful in a few issues I’m dealing with, mostly in relation to my almost 3-year old daughter.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to spend a few extra minutes here and there with people — those I’ve interviewed and random people — as I’ve made my way around Suffolk. Most conversations haven’t lasted as long as my conversation at the Y did, but they are meaningful to me, and not just because I got information I needed to write a story.

These encounters give me a chance to put faces and personalities to a place that might have otherwise been a dot on a map — albeit a large dot given Suffolk’s land size — before I came to work in the city.

It’s something I hope to continue doing as I venture to other places and meet other people here.

And sharing a little of myself, I hope, puts a face behind what might be just a name of a person that wrote a story. I like to think we’re more than just our names, anyway.