Some stereotypes aren’t so far from the truth. My grandmother was tiny and dressed in floral polyester, with orthopedic shoes. She had snowy white hair that she curled with those squishy pink rollers. She shuffled when she walked, told me to be kind to my little sister, and fed me hard candy when my mother wasn’t looking. She called me “Pet”. She doted, she spoiled, and she fawned, but at a specific time of day, she gently shooshed us so she could watch “her stories.”
The term “stories” puzzled me a little as a child. All I saw was a TV screen full of grown-ups who spoke strangely and paused every so often to swear their undying love for one another and (ugh) lock lips. Nope, I didn’t get soap operas at all, didn’t know how anyone could possibly classify them as stories. I really didn’t understand why my divine, perfect, albeit wrinkly grandmother would be so taken by them.
As is always the case, I grew up and got progressively more stupid about most things, but smarter about others. It had been decades since she’d passed away, since I’d seen her seated on her couch, surrounded by crocheted afghans, when it started to make sense. She was old, and on her own a lot of the time. She probably did the same thing most days, and although it wasn’t revealed to me as a child, she may have had a romantic streak a mile wide. It probably felt good for her to escape a little, to see sparks in a world that was probably a tad dull. In the decades that have passed, I’ve come to find it endearing. My grandmother was a real person, an adult with a mind of her own, with a past, and who could fault her for craving “stories”?
So, now I’m a grown up too. I’m still half a lifetime away from silver hair and orthopedic shoes. I am, however, starting to need stories too. Nope, I don’t watch soap operas. With the exception of the week I had chickenpox, I’ve never have, and I probably never will. But I still crave stories, a predilection that’s grown since binge watching TV shows became a real thing. Yup, I’m the type who goes through an entire season of something in a weekend, my phone flashing Netflix beside me as I fold laundry. I stay up, bleary-eyed until the wee hours of morning. I stifle my cheers when an underdog character triumphs, so no one around me will think I’ve lost it entirely. I go into mini-mourning when I run out of episodes and have to wait for the regular schedule to resume. Characters and scenarios haunt me in the off season and I worry about them. I play through possible future plot twists in my head. Scoff if you want, but the Twitter sphere and its population of fangirls/boys tell me I’m not alone. I know this because I check. A lot.
It isn’t just television “stories” that possess me either. I get this way with movies. Nothing pisses me off more than a sequel that takes too long to come out. I’ve been known to fling novels (mostly paperbacks, of course), across the room when their endings aren’t satisfying. Geeze, I even get hung up on really amazing song lyrics sometimes (Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits, your ears should be burning by now).
I get my grandmother’s fixation on “stories”. Mine are about post-apocalyptic civilizations, immortal creatures in polite society, single gals in the big city, and innocents rescued from doomsday cults. They’re not romances, strictly speaking, but they’re still “stories”. My own life is pretty interesting, but I need to know what other lives are like, real or fictional. I’m desperate to know what happens next, what if it went a different way, how do people get around this or that.
What would my grandmother have done if her stories had been available on demand, and if they’d been available in so many different flavours? Would she have stuck to the conventional, sloppy romances, or would she have jumped into comedy or crime drama? Was she really just looking for an escape from being older and frail, or was she secretly a junky, the way I am? I inherited her broad shoulders and her penchant for baking, so maybe this thing I have, this cranial widget that makes me obsess over stories got passed along as well.
I’m picturing myself as an old woman, with the fluffy white hair and the shuffle walk and the bowl full of hard candies. I’m sitting in front of whatever electronic device we’ll be using at the time. It’s been a long day, maybe a long life, and I turn to my granddaughter who is sitting beside me, on whom I have poured my affection for hours. I gently stroke her hair, smile, and tell her, “Hush, Pet. Grandma needs to know what happened after the last zombie invasion. Time for my stories.”