I accepted the task, not knowing at the time what it meant, the transcribing of audio interviews.
The young lady was at the edge of earning her Master of Fine Arts degree and had conducted the interviews over the course of several weeks. I, in turn, listened in on those conversations and, playing the audio over and over, captured the spoken words. It was hours, a few days when looped together, of my life.
The conversations were with friends in her neighborhood, aged friends, as they recounted their lives. Their tales captured me. Sometimes, though I had their words down, I listened again to hear their voices. Sisters, playing off one another, joking and laughing; the singsong of memories. Then there was the father figure, encouraging the neighbor’s daughter as he would his own.
My eavesdropping on these 97, 86, 82, and 67-year-olds, as they salted and peppered their answers to her questions, candidly and easily, has become a part of my story now. Hearing them talk about their education, or lack of it in a formal classroom setting, of their moves, of their pursuits of bettering themselves, of home and land ownership, and raising grateful and ungrateful children, whether born to them or to others, has reminded me of the simultaneous-ness of life.
While I live over here, doing whatever it is that I do, there are those over there, 15, 30, 100 miles and more away, doing some of the very same things as I am, cooking a meal, reading a story or entertaining a friend. And they are doing the same things as I am in eerily similar ways and in vastly different ways.
Simultaneously we live our lives. Bloom or wither where we're planted. They are seasoned travelers. I am still learning to journey. These ladies talked about doing whatever it takes to do what has to be done to improve their circumstances, even when it means leaving everything you love behind and working jobs you truly don’t like until you can become who you want to be.
For instance, one chose to leave home, moving in with a relative for a while. The move involved tending to the children of a Jewish lady and her husband. The pay was good, but she quickly learned rearing other’s children was not for her. She found herself when she moved to Pennsylvania and became a guard in a prison, a new job for women, at the time. She was a trailblazer.
When she came home, back to South Carolina, she was retired, self-assured and still no one’s substitute mother.
Transcribing these words, these conversations gave me a peep inside their worlds. And I am better for it.