Last Saturday, nine women and men over the age of 70 gathered in front of a room at Harwood Place in Wauwatosa to share essays and poems they’d written during the past year.
They looked entirely at ease, despite the looming podium and microphone. I, on the other hand, trotted back and forth before the event began, shuffling papers, asking if anyone wanted water, working up a good sweat and rapid pulse. I could have used some of their serenity (even if they were faking it).
But while our levels of anxiety differed and our ages spanned miles apart, there was so much more that connected us that day.
Jacqui Banaszynski says, “Stories are parables. . . . Stories are history. . . . Each one stands in for a larger message…a guidepost on our collective journey.” When people gather together, writers or not, it doesn’t matter where we come from. Our stories–our histories–connect us. Each of us is daughter or son, husband or wife, old hat at this or novice at that. In the essays and poems read from the podium last Saturday, we heard about first loves, found objects, and failed knitting attempts. I am generations apart from the Harwood Place Writers, but I can relate.
This event is one of the highlights of my year and one of the reasons I continue to lead their class. These writers come to the table every month with open minds, tales to share, and a genuine fellowship that begins with a smile.