Pearls

A picture of a young man hangs in my workspace. Four young men actually, but there’s one in particular looking directly into the camera and, as the frame’s orientation would have it, over my shoulder while I write. I knew this man to be, among many other things, a natural storyteller, so it’s a pleasure to think of him watching my words stutter out onto the page. Some of his most popular tales, requested and retold again and again, were set in the stadium (also gone now) where he’s pictured. Others were built on little glimpses of family life. Regardless of genre, his stories all beat with the same heart: experiences shared with the people he loved.

Take for instance my mother’s first stab at steaming blue crabs. We were new to Williamsburg Virginia. The sticky swelter of low country summer and the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay were both still novel to us when my brother and I returned from the municipal marina – one big boy, one little, both sun-tanned, filthy and proud – with a hand-caught bucketful of Queen’s Creek’s finest. Had she more experience in such matters Mom would have tonged the crustaceans from the bucket one-by-one.  Instead she acquired the necessary experience, and the hard won knowledge that came with it, by trying to dump the whole catch into the pot en masse. The family had huddled around to take in the auspicious occasion. So we were all on hand to see 20 pounds of live crab slide out in a single tangled clot and explode over the pot, stove, counter and kitchen floor. But it was Dad who brought down the house time and again in the retelling of the scuttling, snapping melee that followed. By the time he came to the climax – my brother armed with an oven mitt and wooden spoon, belly crawling headlong behind the dishwasher to square off with one last desperate escapee – listeners were reliably doubled over and in tears.

Life can be described as one long, unbroken string of experience. The tendency in our busy worlds is to let that line spool by unnoticed. But if we pay attention, its constituent moments sometimes stand out like pearls. Maybe it’s the split second that you notice a dark shape behind your fly, or that crease in time when you realize you’ll take the shot, or maybe it’s just a pile of armored spiders taking over the kitchen. The moments will come and they’ll go and you won’t get them back. So get out there with the dads and kids in your life this Father’s Day weekend, collect the ones you can, polish them up in the retelling, and pass them on like the family heirlooms they’re destined to be.

19 Comments on “Pearls

  1. So true. No chance to have warm, humorous, ageless stories to tell about the family sitting in front of the TV, or even worse zoned out on their own pads, pods, and iphones.

    Happy Father’s Day Matt.

  2. Superb

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    *From:* Stalking The Seam [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com] *Sent:* Friday, June 13, 2014 6:32 AM *To:* jim@bradburycounsel.com *Subject:* [New post] Pearls

    Matthew Copeland posted: “A picture of a young man hangs in my workspace. Four young men actually, but there’s one in particular looking directly into the camera and, as the frame’s orientation would have it, over my shoulder while I write. I knew this man to be, among many other “

  3. matt that could be you looking out from that helmet.

  4. Hey Matthew,

    I read your blog and belly laughed with many tears. Tears of thankfulness for the many, many laughable memories with your mom and dad and thankful that I’ll be spending another chapter with you and the family at the beach next week. Love you!

  5. Suze KNEW I would enjoy these memories…thanks so much for sharing….you are an amazing writer…continue to use these gifts…don’t need to remind you how much I love your family! blessings and love, aunt edna

  6. This tale was my favorite! I appreciate remembering the fun, family times when I laughed til my jaws ached and the tears rolled. Please keep the memories coming because you write just
    Like Dad told his tales. Love you!

  7. Nice work, Cope. The story is great and the picture is awesome. Enjoy Everett this Father’s Day!

  8. What a great photo Matthew – and a great re-telling of the tale. Your dad left me with some great stories that I think of often – and sometimes share. It’s just one of so many reasons I’m glad to have known him.

    • Thanks Lawson. I’m also awfully glad that you knew him for assorted reasons, not least of which because it enabled me to get to know you.

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