Little Things

photo (24)“I don’t know where the idea came from, but I asked whether she used a good luck totem when she was playing.”

We are both writers, and as we sipped our tea in the late hours of morning, we talked about our love of people and the craft of writing. We reveled in how, again and again, unexpected things appear and make magic out of nothing. The tennis star who was asked that question during an interview conducted by my guest, answered, with tears filling her eyes. Yes, she indeed had a lucky charm—a handkerchief from her deceased father. She carries it during every match.

When the tennis star’s eyes teared up, so did my guest’s, and in her recounting of the story, I could feel the corners of my eyes stinging. For the writer and the tennis star, the story wasn’t centered on wins, losses, or sport—questions she’d already been asked a thousand times. The meat of their connection and crux of the interview pivoted and thrummed around humanity, relationship and the touching revelation of the totem.

Just before she’d arrived downstairs to share a cup of tea, I’d stood over the kitchen sink washing a dozen mugs and double that amount of spoons. My dishwasher couldn’t keep up with my guests—two Brits and a gal from the Netherlands. They’d met in my living room and bonded over steaming mugs of tea and tiny pastries from the local grocery store. As my plates and bowls struggled to keep pace with the demands of their tea socials, the mugs were winning the race—hence me hunched at the sink, replenishing the cupboard.

I smiled to myself as I worked, noting this new international nuance of visiting guests. Mugs and spoons—a pacing of dishware that put even this Seattleite’s coffee-loving habits to shame. I never had British visitors in the house. They enjoyed coffee in the morning, crisp English Breakfast tea in the afternoon, and a caffeine-free herbal tea in the evening. With each exotic foreigner who steps through my door, I’m offered insights into the lives of others, things that would never occur to me. We’re not talking the sensational stuff of documentaries or trash TV, it’s simply entertaining digestibles of insight that make smile.

Story nuance reminds me of personality nuances. When you fall in love with someone, it’s often the little things that invite you to fall. The way she strokes your beard to comfort herself when she’s sleepy. The way he looks everything up on his phone the minute something intriguing but unknown comes up in conversation. The way she fiddles with her right earlobe when she’s nervous. The way he calls home on Sundays to check in on his aging parents.

Little things are our anchors, our connectors. In conversation, they’re the lifeline that tether us and hold us when we flounder, searching for similarities. Something I explored in my book, and something that continues to unfold for me is how each new guest who walks through my door has the capacity to teach me something. I knew I was in for a treat when this writer and her partner booked their room, and our connection was swift and effortless. As the world continues to arrive at my door, I’m discovering without fail that little things add up to a life lived large.

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” ―Andy Warhol