ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY:   Who is asking the questions?

© Another Day in the Country

We have a small group of friends that have been given credit for our sanity these last few years. Women, kindred spirits, that we make a point of meeting on a regular basis — some years more regular than others. One of them had a birthday while we were in Santa Fe at Christmastime and we kept our eyes open for some small gift for her while we perused the shops as sightseers.

“I’ve decided that I don’t know Phyllis very well,” my sister said. “Do you think she would like this?”

Out of our conversation came a realization that we often don’t know people as well as we think we do.

“I’m not sure I know very much about what you even like,” my sister said to me. “You don’t talk about it, I guess.”

That topic just doesn’t come up in regular conversation very often, but here we were walking through my favorite store, World Market. (Not to be confused with another favorite store that I may have told you about before, Ross’s, which pretty much zeros in on clothing; World Market is eclectic.)

“There isn’t much in this store that I don’t like,” I said to my sister.

I swore I’ve told her this before, but usually she doesn’t hang around in the store as long as I do; so maybe I hadn’t.

“For instance,” I went on, “I’m going to start telling you right now what I really like in here,” and I began. “Love those little scoops. I could put them in all my food canisters. I’ve always wanted a little cast iron Korean Pot to make that rice dish I like so much. Love this licorice from Australia and all these spices. Love their jewelry, ethnic, earth tones, chunky. Pillows from India, those white dishes, candles. Oooh, love those place mats. I even love their furniture!”

I carried on for quite some time and incidentally found some of those very things under the tree on Christmas morning.

We talk about the weather. We talk about the news. Some people, especially men, talk about sports incessantly — I listen to them at the health club where I exercise. Sports is basically all the men talk about there. Sports, to me, is like gossip. It’s just stuff, information, some true, some guessed at, about someone else’s life; evidently endlessly fascinating. It’s not about anything to do with you. It’s something you watch, helplessly, unable to influence a thing. These guys at the club are listing facts to each other that are 20, 30 years old, and they are smiling at the memory, marveling at history and pleased, even impressed, that they remember the same event. Are these the same guys who can’t remember their anniversary?

I don’t believe we ask our family and friends enough questions. Instead of talking about the latest football scores — or lack thereof — I think we should be asking, “What do you think?” and “What’s on your bucket list?” and “What’s your favorite kind of music?” “If you could do anything well, what would it be?” “What’s the best thing that happened in 2012?” “What one thing would you like to accomplish this year?”

Sunday, cousins came for dinner. These are California cousins who we are lucky if we see once a year.

“Emma, tell us about your school,” we queried. “Was there a Solstice celebration in Santa Barbara, Alan?” “Do you still have chickens?” “Meg, where did you find a recipe for peach/raspberry pie? You made it up?” “Aunt Frieda, would a pillow make that chair more comfortable?”

Questions, questions, questions.

When we first moved from California to Kansas, one of the things we noticed was that the people we met here in the country didn’t ask very many questions. “Were they not interested?” we wondered and we decided that Midwestern folk had a different scale for privacy than people we knew in California. It was more of a “we don’t want to pry” stance. A “that’s none of my business,” kind of thing, which didn’t keep people from speculating but they were hesitant to actually ask a question.

Well, folks, I believe that asking questions is a way of expressing caring and interest in. Questions show a healthy curiosity about people in our lives. Questions are great conversation starters. So, smile across the table at that family member and ask a real question. Make a discovery on another day in the country. Learn something new.

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