I was very fortunate to have been born into a family that believed in style. The men and women on both sides of my family, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, young and old, had indelible senses of timeless style. Whenever, wherever we arrived en masse, people noticed.
That sense of style also lent itself to personal style. Each member of the family developed a unique and seductive approach to social interaction and turned it into art. It was beautiful to experience and to watch … and to listen to.
You listened because my family was filled with artful, colorful, storytellers who could keep you enraptured for hours on end. Whenever we gathered for family reunions, holidays, barbecues, after church dinners, or card playing, mostly spades, on the weekends, even funerals!, the most adept story tellers would engage in competitions that would leave you helpless with laughter, in total shock and awe, or helpless sorrow! As a child, I would creep out of bed and eaves drop on the grown-ups on weekends and eagerly observe the animated body language and listen to the stories they’d tell! I savored every single minute and every morsel and every single inflection of every single conversation I ever witnessed. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have sparkling, seductive conversations like them!!
Immediately after graduating from college, I moved to NYC to live out my fantasy of becoming the next big noise, the newest, brightest star to rival Manhattan’s glamorous skyline at night. Back on earth I’d made my first friend, Charles, a young talented, intelligent black interior decorator with a sharp wit. He had a really elegant, beautifully decorated apartment in Brooklyn where we spent many hours laughing and eating some delicious dish Charles threw together.
One weekend he gave a small cocktail party for about 20 of his friends, myself included. Everyone was stylish and seemed ultra sophisticated to my parochial eyes. Two of his guests sat next to me on the sofa and I started telling some story, I don’t remember about what or who or why…I just remember being shocked when I came to the punch line and the entire room started laughing. I was so surprised.
Charles came over and whispered in my ear, “A star is born,” and chuckled. Everyone wanted to hear more stories from the boy from Alabama!!
I was visiting my family recently, running off at the mouth, as usual, and my nephew, Quentin, said to me, “You know who you sound like…?” I had no idea. He said, “Grandaddy.” My mother readily agreed,”I was just thinking the same thing…!” They were speaking about my mother’s father, my grandfather, Lacy Spruill. He was hands down the best storyteller on both sides of the family. Imagine that! The apple really doesn’t fall far from the tree.
I realize now, at that party in Brooklyn, not just any star was born, The Colorful Raconteur was born!