Senility and Storytelling: A Date With the Moth

(Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center,NYC)


Many people listen to The Moth, a fabulous radio program in existence since 1997 that is delivered over NPR stations at various time slots throughout the week.  It features real stories told by real people… stories that usually focus on a pivotal point in their lives which left them wiser for having had their experience.

The Moth at Lincoln Center.jpeg

My husband is a fan, and I occasionally listened in when I was on my way to or from somewhere. Sometimes I’d even sit in the car when I reached my destination just to hear the outcome of the story; that’s how riveting the stories can sometimes be. Luckily,  a good friend of mine called recently to ask if I’d like to join her for the annual performance of The Moth at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center. Of course I said yes.

My friend and I hadn’t seen each other in almost a year though we only live about 40 minutes apart. On the way into NYC on the Long Island Rail Road we shared our latest war stories: Both of us are cancer survivors, and she is still undergoing “maintenance treatment” for her cancer. But the more interesting part of our conversation was about memory loss. She has an extremely vigilant West Coast daughter who has decided that her mother is losing her memory and needs to be tested.

To appease her daughter, my friend went through several tests, and the only one she had difficulty with was remembering five words about twenty minutes after they’ve been said to her. This happened twice.  I replied that I thought that I would probably fail the same test.  We exchanged more information about friends who are experiencing similar lapses, and about our own personal memory issues. To remember dates we now both diligently mark them on our calendars. I assured her she was not losing her mind, but was more or less in the same boat as the rest of us 70-something-year-olds, and she needed to tell her daughter  to back off.

It was a beautiful spring night in NYC. We really enjoyed The Moth. It was attended by a real NYC crowd of mixed ages: no tourists in sight.  And every seat was taken. Not only was I focused on the story tellers and the stories they told in response to the prompt: When Have You Experienced Something Magical Afoot in Your Life?, I was completely entranced by the fact that the huge audience was completely silent through the telling of each story and I only saw a couple of iPhone flashes during the program.  The behavior of the audience could serve as a model for all the audiences that are misbehaving at operas, theatre performances, movies, and concerts. We really enjoyed both the stories and the storytellers, our modern day griots.

As we stood on the subway platform to catch the train back to Penn Station, we shared our impressions of the event. We began to discuss which one or two of the five stories we’d liked best.  And then a funny thing happened: Neither of us could remember all five of the stories.  We looked at each other in horror. We made several more attempts and then I decided to look up the bio information about each of the story tellers in the playbill we were given.  That gave me enough details for me to remember the fifth story and storyteller.  All I needed was a clue.

We looked at each other again, and this time we both burst out laughing. “I won’t tell, if you won’t,” we both agreed. Upon reflection, it was my favorite story of the night!

(The newest and third collection of Moth stories, Occasional Magic, was available, so of course I bought one.  You might enjoy making  gift of it to your favorite story teller or reader…or to yourself.

Occasional Magic with The Moth.jpeg

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barbara suter

I'm a retired teacher who enjoys writing and sharing in this; unique blogging community.

8 thoughts on “Senility and Storytelling: A Date With the Moth”

  1. It is not that we forget things it is that we have so much stored in our brains that it sometimes takes longer to retrieve it. We sometimes need a little clue to judge is to the refit compartment where the informatics stored.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Every time I ask my doctor about my memory, he asks me if my “memory lapses” bother anyone besides me. If I’m the only one bothered, he said it’s not a problem. It’s good that we can laugh at ourselves – I can relate to the need for prompts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a lovely story for so many reasons. One, I love The Moth. Two, I love that you met up with a friend. Three, The story of memory loss was sweet and warm. Four, My mom and I were just discussing the word thing the other day, and she was disgusted that they only made her remember three words instead of five, “It’s really five words not three, but whatever.” I am so glad you shared the collection too, I most definitely will look for it as I think both my mom and I would love it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great adventure (love your title) into the world of … what did you write about … (oh yeah) storytelling and memory loss. 🙂 Occasionally I experience a memory blip or two. Ugh! I just declare it as information my brain didn’t think was necessary to remember. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clever response! Everyone has their own way of dealing with their gradual memory loss. What is comforting to me is that most of my friends are having the same symptoms, so I’m in good company. We joke about having to wear name tags in a few years. Maybe not so funny?

      Liked by 1 person

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