An expression around Wilmington is that any two strangers will discover they have a common acquaintance if they talk long enough. The city is that small.
But I have another, more general, observation—almost everyone has something very unique and interesting about their life, but we often don’t know about it, sometimes even after years of friendship. They themselves do not see it as unique or interesting, and it just doesn’t come up in the conversation. Most people do not know my wife’s earliest memories are of an Internment Camp for Japanese-Americans in Arizona during WWII. What would she say? “Hi, nice to meet you. I grew up in an American prison camp.”
I once worked for years with a middle-aged woman who was the secretary for our group. I even occasionally played racquetball with her daughter. She later transferred to the medical department where my wife worked and they socialized for several more years. She had been to our house often, so I thought I knew her pretty well. Then one day she mentioned her sister.
“I forgot you had a sister,” I said. “Is she older or younger?”
“We’re the same age. We’re twins,” she replied.
“Twins! Do you look alike?”
“Oh, yes. We’re identical twins. You would not be able to tell us apart. Nobody can.”
Wow, now that is big, at least big to me, but she did not see it as anything unusual.
Another example—For years, I chatted with an elderly man who came to the pool at our Jewish Community Center where I worked. He educated me on the wealth of Yiddish expressions. One day, I mentioned how regularly he came in. “Oh, yes,” he replied, stretching backwards. “If I don’t exercise every day, my back stiffens up.”
“Were you in an accident?”
“No, I got it in Auschwitz,” he said, showing me his arm with the now-faint tattooed number.