There’s something that happens to a person when s/he starts to really talk from their spirit. Her face softens; her speech becomes more casual, more genuine; her stories roll out one after the other. Tonight, my dad’s friend Jim started talking about his time in Alaska as a military pilot. He talked about arctic survival training where he had to sleep out in minus 40 degree weather. He said, “-30 is better than -40, but it’s still damn cold.” Then, he went on to say how when he would get into his plane to fly, he would drop his helmet down to the crew so they could hold it over the exhaust to warm it up. Then, he’d slam it on his head and feel the warmth. By the time, he got back to base he could brush the ice from his head. “Maybe that’s where all my hair went,” he said as he rubbed his bald head. “It all froze off.” I loved every minute of it.
I love when my dad talks about being a kid growing up in eastern NC. The snake stories, and the tales of when he accidentally peed in the lidded box that his sisters kept their clothes in because he was half-asleep. The story of the wild boar that chased him when he took a shortcut to his friend’s house. The time his brother got his pants hooked on nail when they were jumping from the hay loft. These stories tell me so much of his life.
When I meet people, I look for those moments when they lean back in their chairs and begin to share. In those moments, I feel like they’ve opened up their chests and shown me their souls, all glittery and warming, like arctic snow.