When I was about 5 or 6, I paraded around the house – seriously, paraded. The rooms were all connected to each other in my family’s Corona, Queens apartment, so that I could go around the whole thing in a circle, and I marched around and around several times – chanting:
In search of old things! In search of old things! In search of old things!
I should explain that I come from an old family. Not Old Money – just old age-wise. I was the youngest of three children by fifteen years, which meant that my parents were much older than the parents of my peers, and had built up a history long before I was born. Whenever my Mom would clean (or whenever I’d snoop in the name of “playing”), old things would turn up: Photos, old clothes and jewelry, random artifacts of lives lived long before I ever existed. I was fascinated by these things, because as the (much) youngest, I was the furthest removed from their original context. Whenever one of these Old Things would turn up, I would immediately start to imagine how it was used in its glory days, before it ended up in the back of one of our closets, or in the jewelry box my mom never used.
I would give it a story. Where it came from, who it belonged to, what it meant. These stories would eventually go beyond my family and into the realm of uncharted islands, or royalty, or street-wise kids trading it to get by. Yeah, the stories I created weren’t always happy ones depicting perfect fantasy lives, but they were always adventurous, or fun – usually both – even if they included hardships or tragedies.
Hardships and tragedies make good stories. So do adventure and fun.
Anyway, there came a point where it seemed like our apartment had run out of story-treasure. I’d seen everything in the closets, everything in all the boxes, everything in all the cabinets. There was nothing left – no more unknown old things. But I wanted more! Old things were exciting and mysterious, especially when no one seemed to care about them except 5-year-old me, so there was no one else to ascribe meaning to them. To make them relevant again. That was my job.
By creating stories for them in my head, I was keeping them alive.
And so I chanted while marching around the Jusino apartment: In search of old things! In search of old things! In search of old things!
I remember my brother laughing at my ridiculousness. Hell, even I knew I was being a little ridiculous in my methods, but that didn’t make the search itself anything less than serious biddness. I explained my search to my brother and asked him if he had anything, and he told me he didn’t, but that he’d keep an eye out in case he saw anything.
After about 3-4 times around the apartment, I remember my mom telling me to give it a rest. 🙂
But that’s the thing – my family let me chant and march around the apartment a bit before telling me to stop. And while I don’t remember if I found any new Old Things in my search that day (I vaguely remember finding things that were technically “old,” but nothing with a sense of History), I do remember that my family let me search, loudly. They might not have understood why I had to march around the apartment looking for stories to tell, but they didn’t stop me either. Whether or not it was important to them, they knew it was important to me.
I see the world in stories. I’m fascinated by people, because each individual is a deep pool of stories to tell. I’m fascinated by places I’ve never been, because they each contain the stories of millions. I’m fascinated by found objects, because you don’t always know where they’ve come from, or how they got there, and there’s immense pleasure in making it up. In giving things life.
Next week, I hope to start telling even more stories. I’ll be starting a podcast – The Teresa Jusino Experience. Original, huh? 🙂 In it, I’ll keep you posted on whatever news tidbits I’ve got going on in my writing life, and I’ll have a Teresopinion on some topic or other. But each episode will always end with a story. Because there’s nothing like telling stories to keep us alive.
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