Talking to Trees and Other Life Forms

I’ve been told that I can talk to a tree and get it to talk back to me. In my experience, oaks think they’re all wise and enlightened but for my money, it’s the redwood that is the king of the forest. Redwoods possess a quiet confidence that comes from knowing that they’re truly badasses. But I digress.

I chalk up my non-shyness to three things: being a Leo, being part Irish, and being part Italian. (The German part of me only kicks in with my love of order and things running on time.) If you were to ask me to name which qualities I like most about myself (aside from my sparkling wit, magnanimous nature and my humility, of course), an outgoing personality and an unquenchable curiosity would be those qualities.

I was reminded twice in the last week of how grateful I am to be a curious people-person.  The latest was yesterday while waiting for my mother at the doctor’s office. As usual, I started a conversation with the person next to me. He was an older man and we started off by talking about the score of the Giants game. (It was scoreless at the time.) I found out that his name was Angelo, that he grew up in North Beach and that he went to Galileo High School. I told him that I was from the Mission, that my parents went to Mission High School and that I went to Catholic schools.

Then his wife came out into the waiting room and we got to talking. I told her where I had gone to grammar school and to high school. As I mentioned the name of my high school, St. Rose Academy, a woman waiting at the front desk turned around and it was my Godmother. Not only that, my Godmother knew the people to whom I was talking! They lived in the same neighborhood.  It is a very small world indeed.

This is the kind of experience I’ve always had as a fourth-generation San Franciscan. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to since natives are a vanishing breed, and that saddens me. But, I just keep being open to new people and conversations.

This brings me to messages that both my mother and I received on our answering machines earlier this week. A man with a heavy Boston accent named Charlie called and was looking for a Frank Rutterman. He mentioned sports and something about a reunion. Mom ignored her message but then I got the same call.

It isn’t often that Mom or I get a call for my father since he’s been dead since 1991. But since this guy Charlie asked for Frank, I thought that perhaps he just mispronounced the last name and he was some old baseball buddy of my father’s. So, I figured, what the hell, I’ll give him a call back.

After some initial suspicion from Charlie’s wife as to my identity and why I was calling, Charlie got on the phone. Alas, he’s about 10 years younger than my Dad and the Frank he was looking for didn’t play baseball. He ran track. It seemed that Charlie’s track team was being inducted into the some Massachusetts state Hall of Fame or something and he’s been trying to locate some of his old teammates.

Once we knew that my Frank and his Frank weren’t the same guys, he asked me about my Dad. I told him that my Dad played baseball and that Ted Williams was his favorite player. Charlie then told me that he had a 1956 Ted Williams baseball card that was worth about $8,000. I told him that I grew up loving the Red Sox because of my Dad and that I only wish Dad had lived long enough to go to Fenway Park with me when I lived in Massachusetts.

Charlie and I talked for another 15 minutes or so. I wished him luck on finding his Frank and he thanked me for calling him back. He said that I sounded like a “helluva girl” and that he really enjoyed our conversation.

When I hung up, I quietly thanked my Dad for not only introducing me to the joy of baseball, but also for encouraging me to be friendly and to get to know people. If he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of sharing a little bit of him with Charlie from Wakefield. Thanks, Dad.