Once a month, the Austin Bat Cave hosts a Story Department. It’s an evening of storytelling along a particular theme. Past themes include Family Dinner, Gifts, Resolutions, Foolish Love and Luck. Last night, the theme was In-laws. As is often the case, I was tired upon arriving to Story Department. As is always the case, I was rejuvenated after.
For about ninety minutes, a handful of people – writers, artists, a lawyer, a financial planner – told stories about their families. As you might expect, most of the stories surrounded the lunacy of the in-laws, but still they were heartfelt. For about ninety minutes, these storytellers let us into their most personal worlds. Whether talking about the fear that an in-law would find a dildo or the sadness of being cutoff by an in-law shortly after a marriage, each person spoke genuinely about their real and personal challenges of creating a family in the midst of two existing ones. By the end of the night, there seemed to be a sense of intimacy among the speakers who, though they didn’t know one another beforehand, comfortably referred to one another in their storytelling, all with the consistent message of, “I so relate to what you said.”
The connection – the understanding – that was communicated among storytellers and even between the audience and the storytellers is what makes me love books, stories, live readings, and evenings like Story Department. Though there are times where life feels like what Herman Hesse described in Demian as “a cruelly lonely experience,” evenings like last night remind me that people do want to connect with one another in the most personal ways and that if we take the time to share our stories, those connections happen.