At the end of last Saturday’s Reunion at Teacher’s College , I dragged my weary self over to a pastry shop for coffee and cake with my daughter. I hadn’t had a thing to eat since 6:30, when I had grabbed a granola bar as I was heading out the door to catch the train to New York. You pause to eat at your peril on such days at TC – the price of taking a detour to the cafeteria for a sandwich could be losing a seat in one of Lucy Calkins’ workshops…not worth it.
So, by the time I arrived at this pastry shop,
I was ready for a totally decadent slice of something and a very large cup of coffee. It took a while for my daughter (never punctual under the best of circumstances) to arrive, so I settled to enjoy my hard earned treats…and that’s when I noticed that every single kid (all undergrads and grad students) was plugged into his or her Macbook – earphones hooked up and eyes trained on the screen. This explained why the place was so quiet for a Saturday afternoon!
Nursing my coffee in that quiet, I had to admit to myself that I missed not having the opportunity to eavesdrop on anyone. As a writer and a writing teacher, I practice what I preach to my kids – listen to the world around you, it will inform your writing. I love noting snatches of conversations, the way people phrase things, how personalities are revealed in conversations.
Sitting in that quiet, I thought back to memorable “eavesdropping opportunities:
- at a similar cafe in Paris, an ancient couple holding hands across the table, rapt in a passionate conversation about something – I’ve used that scene in many variations in my writing pieces
- a young mother telling her little boy all about the grandfather who was about to visit for the holidays – I’d like to think that my kids will speak of me in such a manner when the time comes
- many conversations about travels and books and significant others – some nugget of writing stuff buried in each
- Gloria Steinem at “Alice’s Teacup” discussing a contribution she was making to some scholarship fund, and then passing along a VERY BIG CHEQUE – this was one of those times when I was so bowled over by the identity of the person I was eavesdropping from that I had trouble actually listening to what was being said…for the longest time, I just sat there thinking, “I am sitting RIGHT NEXT TO GLORIA STEINEM!!!”
Mercifully, my daughter arrived before too long, and soon we were deep into our own conversation – not an eavesdropper in sight!!