I have a big mouth.
It’s genetic, inherited from my Mom. When we were together, there was never a dull, or quiet, moment. We developed the ability to talk, giggle and hear at the same time, much to the distress of librarians, preachers, and fellow concertgoers. I’m kidding. We knew when to pipe down. My talker – I mean, my mother – and I would write notes instead, which worked pretty well except around a few unfriendly people who were too high and mighty to pass them back and forth. I mean, how hard is it, really, to give a sermon and move a piece of scrap paper along? Geez.
But it’s more than that. I’m a tad overly friendly. That’s my new, self-affirming way of saying I can’t mind my own business.
Not long ago, I went to New York. My daughter Sally, who lives there, warned me to contain my need to befriend and talk to everyone.
“Mom, contain your need to befriend and talk to everyone,” she said.
We are on the subway.
She catches me looking at a young couple with a new baby, a tender scene I can’t resist.
“Mom? Don’t,” she says, hushed.
“I’m not doing anything. I’m just looking at that precious –”
“You can’t do that here,” she whispers sharply in my ear.
“– adorable baby!” I say, aloud, toward the couple.
I feel a sudden jab in my pocketbook, which I am clasping to my side.
“You’re acting like a tourist. This is New York, you nutcase!” she hisses.
“Look at him – so sweet!” I say, pointing enthusiastically to the sleepy face in the blue blanket, sure the new parents will look up and smile. The mom pulls the stroller closer to her.
My daughter looks downward, seething. “Stop. Now. And stop doing itsy-bitsy spider.”
Oops. I suppose singing a lullaby is out, too.
But home in Maine, I honor my inner intrusive loudmouth self. I’ll connect with anyone in my path who doesn’t turn and run. Pregnant women, kids in grocery carts, older folks in coffee shops, the UPS guy sprinting away from me at 50 mph – I’m just being friendly. Although clearly, they haven’t all gotten the memo.
I am in line at the grocery store, taking inventory. The woman ahead of me has seven items.
“Love that,” I say, leaning in, as she’s reaching into her purse to pay. She looks up at me, startled. I nod toward the conveyor belt.
“You’re treating yourself. Nothing like ice cream and cookies to celebrate life,” I say, sending my warm intentions her way. Oddly, she doesn’t seem to pick up on my warmth. Instead, she looks down at her groceries and mumbles something to the cashier, who re-swipes the cookies, pokes his keyboard, and sets them under the counter. Ugh, I’ve opened my big mouth again. When will I ever learn to mind –
“I’ll split them with you!” I shriek, as she rushes off. I’m pretty sure I see her hesitate, just before she makes her final exit.
Oh, I’ve tried toning things down, I really have. At my yearly physical, for example, I prepare questions to ask my doctor in order to stay focused.
He looks at my chart, then rechecks my blood pressure.
But this time, list in hand, I begin. First question:
“What are your kids’ names?”
In my defense, he always asks me a lot of personal questions.
OK, so maybe I talk too much. And perhaps I intrude a little.
But now I’ve finally found a good reason to be thankful for my big mouth. And it’s important. So listen up.
See, there’s hardly a person on the planet who doesn’t know and love someone with cancer. Fighting cancer is tough, and the battles are many: finding the right treatment, paying for it, learning how to live well. There are no medals of honor for persons experiencing cancer, nor for their families or warm-hearted caregivers. There should be.
So instead, we do something else to honor and support them.
On July 29, Tri for a Cure will host thousands in a jubilant effort to raise money for the Maine Cancer Foundation. The Tri participants will swim, bike, and run for their lives and the lives of others to raise needed dollars for cancer research and programs that make a real difference. I’ll be there to cheer and open my checkbook. My husband, the impetus behind my celebration of every single day, and who is staring his own battle with cancer in the face and punching it, will be there to tell me it’s good to see me spend money on something other than iced mochas and more new sneakers.
And for this cause, I will gladly use my big mouth – and big computer keyboard – to say, “Please participate.”
And that’s something to party about.
Tell you what. Bring the family. We’ll talk.