June 24, 2013


The last woman I loved once lived in a neighborhood where the raccoons were bigger than a medium-sized dog.

Or, at least, that’s what she kept telling me.

I was in Washington DC while she lived in this neighborhood in Toronto, so my only interactions with the neighborhood were when I would return to visit her, fairly regularly, and spend time with her in her Cabbagetown apartment.

Her stories about raccoons that were big enough to eat a small baby, about raccoons so large but so nimble that they would make the wooden fence shake when they walked along the ledge but they would never fall off — those were stories that seemed like hyperbole, but that amused me so very much.

Late one sleepless night, I arose and looked out the window above her bed. There, hiding in the shadows, was a raccoon that looked like it had just been feasting on children. It was massive. It was fearsome. Despite its size, it was nimble as it played a game of parkour across the fences and roofs of the houses around us.

Her stories about massive raccoons were right; after that experience, they became my stories to tell.

Last week, I moved into Cabbagetown with the woman I love now. It had been a while since I had thought of the raccoons and the stories told by my former love, but moving back into the neighborhood brought back the memories of the oversized animals.

I began to tell the stories to the people I knew. I told my friends and my love all about these large raccoons that prowled the fences of the neighborhood.

Like I had done once before, they laughed, humored me. These were stories, as I had once originally thought, of hyperbole.

Two nights ago, my love was awoken by the sounds of a raccoon on the fence in our backyard. The next morning, she told me about the incredibly-oversized animal, larger than a small dog, tiptoeing daintily across the top edge of our fence.

My stories had become a reality to her.

This, I guess, is the way stories are shared.

A story is a tale that amuses and enlightens, but it doesn’t travel until it becomes real to us.

I have told many stories, and heard many more. The stories that keep living are those that resonate, that make sense to us in our context, that become our reality and our own story to tell.

A story about large raccoons is entertaining when they aren’t prowling around in your backyard. When you do finally see their masked face in the night, the story becomes experience, and experience must be shared.