Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Can we talk?"
(or: The Value of Conversation)

I've read reports that reveal how we have a lack of conversation with the people in our lives. Parents can go all day without ever having a "real" conversation with a child. Husbands and wives can go for days without "really" talking with each other. I hate to admit it, but those facts can be true even in my family... a family that is actually quite healthy and strong in its dynamics. Even in families where we "like each other" and value each other's opinions, day-to-day living can cause the the art of conversation to slide.

One person I never lack for conversation with, however, is Sydney.

Listen to the conversation we had just this past Monday, after I picked her up from dance class.

Sydney: "Singing and dancing are the best things ever."

Me: "Oh, you're right. I know how much you love to sing and dance."

S: "And you are the best Mommy ever."

Me: "That's so sweet. Thank you, Sydney."

S: "And Poppy is the best Poppy ever."

Me: "He sure is."

S: "And my sisters are the best sisters ever."

Me: "You are right, Sydney. They are so sweet with you."

S: "And my friends are the best friends ever."

Me: "Friends are very special to have, and you have some great friends."

S: "Yep. Those are all my best things."

Me: "And, you know. McKenna is the best oldest daughter ever. And Delaney is the best middle daughter ever. And YOU are the best youngest daughter ever."

S: "Well, actually, I'm the front daughter."

Me: "The front daughter?"

S: "Yep. I'm always in the front. Then Delaney is in the middle. And McKenna's in the back."

I just had to stop and smile. I love to hear how children understand things, and Sydney definitely always has a special way of putting things.

Whenever Sydney and I have a funny or meaningful conversation, I write it down (either here on my blog or in a journal). I know that I will treasure these memories and these moments with her, and I don't want to forget them.

And talking with Sydney like that made me think about conversations in general. About what it means to be able to really connect with those in my life.

I got to thinking about conversations I've had in my past... conversations I wish I'd had... conversations that I need to have more often.

There are some conversations I will never forget and that remain precious to me, even in their simplicity. I will always remember the conversations my Dad and I would have on the way to elementary school (he drove me every morning from kindergarten through sixth grade, so you can imagine the volume of conversations we had). I actually don't remember the content of a lot of the discussions; I don't remember talking about schoolwork or grades or activities (although, certainly we did talk about those things). I mostly remember laughing with him, and singing songs. We'd sing "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "House at Pooh Corner," and he taught me the value of The Byrds and The Moody Blues. It was special one-on=one time with my Dad, and I will always treasure those memories.

I'll never forget the conversation that Gary and I had the night we met. We'd shared our first dance just moments before, then he asked me to join him outside where it was cooler and quieter. We talked about "surface" stuff..our jobs, my daughter, what we'd been doing that day.. but it was so comfortable that I knew even then that there was promise in our relationship. Looking back, the contentment in that conversation changed the course of my life forever.

There are other conversations that were hard to have, but that have made me stronger. I'll never forget the talk that ended my first marriage; the conversation with my best friend after her younger brother committed suicide; the talk I had with God as I rushed to see my mother in ICU after a brain aneuryism; the conversation I had with Gary in the emergency room, as we dealt with the knowledge that he'd just had a stroke. Not a single one of those were easy conversations (none of the ease and casualness of the one on the night Gary and I met)... but they were conversations that were necessary and that helped me grow as a person and in my relationships.

There are conversations that I wish I had and that I will always regret not having. I had wonderful relationships with both of my grandfathers, but because I didn't see them often (they lived several states away) I didn't hear all the stories I wish I'd heard about their lives. I come from a family of storytellers--I really do think it's why I am a writer today--so I remember the stories my Pa Sloan and my Grandpa Stuart told me when they just got on a "storytelling roll," but boy do I wish I had heard more. I wish I'd asked about their memories of childhood, and how they met my grandmothers (thank goodness both my grandmothers are alive, and I have since heard these wonderful tales!), and about their experiences in the War. And how I wish I'd asked them and then written them all down... but I didn't.

(I have tried to reverse this a little bit in our generation now. Delaney just a few weeks ago interviewed her great-grandmother about World War 2 and got some fantastic stories. And I scrapbook because I want to leave a legacy for my children and their children.)

Then there are conversations that... because of those experiences I just mentioned... that I know I need to have more often. I need to really connect with those I love. I need to ask Gary how his day was and really listen when he tells me about it. I need to capture moments and memories with those people I won't have in my life forever. I need to talk with God like He's a friend, conversing freely about things that trouble me or things that make me happy. I need to ask friends how they are, and really want to know the answer (and be ready to listen with an open ear). I need to ask my children questions, and then really engage them with what's going on in their lives.

In doing these things, I will make my relationships better. I will grow as a friend. I will show my children that they are valued immensely. And I will create lasting memories.

These conversations are some of the most precious moments of my life, so I try and capture them on paper. I write them down in this blog; I journal about them; and I put them in my scrapbook pages. I want to remember the importance of that conversation I had with Sydney after dance; I want to recall the moments I shared with my parents when I was a child; I want to record the silly talks I have with my best girlfriends.

So... take some time today to think about whether you're really talking to those around you.

Think about those conversations in your past that are special to you; make note of those conversations that you regret not having (and vow to have them next time!); and challenge yourself to write down your conversations. They--both the memories you have of them, and the versions you take time to write down--will be some of the most important treasures of your life.


Adrienne said...

Ack, what a beautiful post!!! SO very true!

Patti said...

Very good post Cheryl.
I wish I had taped alot of converstations with my grandparents. I miss them so :(

Nina Diane said...

great post Cheryl!
and like you, our family is strong but it doesn't always feel like we have "conversations" as we all come home from work. I'll work on that......

Katrin said...

This so hit the spot today!!! As we got our grocery shopping done today, Martin and I were talking, but we were having parallel conversations... I don't think either of us really heard the other. Thanks for making me remember. ;)

Cheryl Wray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl Wray said...

Adrienne--It is true, isn't it? I have to remind myself to really talk sometimes.

Patti--I know! It is one of my greatest regrets--not getting more stories from my grandfathers and my great-grandparents (I knew three of them!).

Nina-It is a challenge, I think!

Katrin--So funny that you could identify today. Have a great day!

Auburn Kat said...

I agree, conversations with people that you love are extremely important. It's sad when people work away their lives and miss out on living life!

BTW, love the redesigned site!

Cheryl said...

I really enjoyed this post. Conversation is a great thing that God has for us and it is free! I wish I had written down my conversations with my children. That is such a great idea! Hey, I guess it is not to late now because they both still live at home. Thanks for some good advice!

LZ Blogger said...

Cheryl ~ By the time I was old enough to really care what my grandparents had to tell me about their past, they were past the point of being able to remember it all. We do have a tape that was recorded by my wife's great aunt on her 100th birthday. She told stories about when she came to Texas from Oklahoma in a covered wagon as a young girl back in the 1880's and although she's been gone for more than 30 years now, we still have the tape to share with our kids and grandkids. I guess we should really have it transferred to a CD? Thanks for the (spoken) "communication message" here for us ALL! It is very timely for most of us. ~ jb///

Gin said...

I love this post! It's so verytrue, Cheryl.

Tracy said...

great post. some of my favorite conversations with my daughters happen in the car.
thanks for stopping by my blog and for your nice comment. it's always great to meet new bloggin' pals!

Gretchen said...

Lovely. Conversations are what make us human. I love this. It's okay to have different levels of depth to conversations, too, as long as you keep having them. Especially with those growing kids. Don't let them clam up, right? ;)

Gretchen said...

BTW, I have weekly conversations with my crabby, old, wonderful, opinionated, sage grandma, who just turned 82. With my mom being in heaven, it's nice that we can still talk about our shared and not shared experiences with her, and, of course about our current quilting project. ;)

camport said...

awesome post! I love conversations when you learn just a little something about someone that you never knew. Even after 7 years of marriage, I find myself saying, "Oh, I didn't know that!"

The main reason I scrap is to remember the stories{I think we all do}. As a third child, my parents are always telling HALF-stories about when I was little, "Oh, you did this thing..." but they can't quite remember what that thing was. Or, "Oh you said this or that..." come to find out it was my sister or brother or neighbor down the street who said this or that.

Wow. Long winded commenter here. Thanks for this post!