Familiarity. Memory of the way things get said. Once you have heard certain expressions, sentences, you almost never forget them. ~Eudora Welty
Last week I went to Stratford, Ontario for a few days, a small town that is known for its marvelous theater. Like most artistically based communities, Stratford is very tourist oriented with many lovely bed and breakfasts and unique restaurants. However, there is nothing tacky or commercial about the area – each shop is unique with an eclectic, interesting line of merchandise.
There are about 32,000 people who live in Stratford full-time, which means that the eclectic little shops and cafe’s are part of their daily regimen. This was quite evident when we went out for breakfast one morning at Features, a tiny breakfast cafe located on a busy corner. The place was filled with diners, knee to knee at the two and four top wooden tables. We were waiting in the foyer when an elderly gentleman walked in, his morning paper folded neatly and tucked under his arm.
“Hi Chappie,” the hostess said, glancing toward the back of the cafe. “Your table is occupied right now, but the one behind it is open. Do you want that one, or would you like to wait for your regular table?”
Without only a slight nod of his head and a gesture with the folded newspaper, the man indicated he would sit down. The hostess escorted him to his seat, and as she passed the kitchen counter called over “Chappie’s sitting.”
“Got it!” one of the line cooks acknowledged. With those words, he knew to start Chappie’s usual breakfast.
I was simply enchanted by the entire exchange. It’s one of those conversations that sticks in your mind, sentences that “once heard, you almost never forget.” It has occurred to me more than once that there is a story somewhere in those sentences, in that episode in the diner.
The same thing happened a few weeks ago during the sermon at church. Our minister was talking about the phrase his wife used when their children were leaving the house. “Don’t forget,” she’d tell them each time, “I love you. God loves you. Remember where you come from.” The power and poignancy of those words stuck with me, and have become part of the opening paragraph for a short story about a middle-aged woman caring for her elderly mother.
Real life offers so many opportunities for inspiration if you observe and listen. Expressions and sentences heard in casual conversation can embed themselves in your memory and become perfect fodder for the imagination. Appropriate them, find ways to make them your own.
Have you overheard conversations that have later found their way into your imagination and writing?