It seems so natural, as children, to make a friend on the playground. You just start swinging, or sliding, or digging next to each other. But boy, does it get more complicated as we age.
On Tuesday, the Des Moines Storytellers Project is dedicating a night to those sometimes awkward, but so-often meaningful exchanges of friendship.
Six storytellers will take the stage at the Funny Bone in West Des Moines. They'll tell true, first-person tales from their lives. Some are funny, some are heartfelt — and all are guaranteed to delight.
As one of the Register's storytelling coaches, I can relate. I've moved multiple times as an adult. I know the awkwardness of arriving in a new city — with my hiring manager the only local number in my cell.
I've taken all the Dear Abby advice: joining volunteer leagues, taking classes and showing up at group meet-ups, searching for friends with similar interests.
But oh, the stumbles. Like the time I invited a woman out to coffee, only to realize she did not think my offer was platonic.
And that awful moment when I arrived at a party, surveyed the crowd and realized I had entered high school while they were still in diapers.
It's enough to make you want to stay home and binge-watch Netflix.
But then, occasionally, you connect. I remember joking about the chilly transition from Florida to Iowa during an evening out. It drew laughs, and I didn't think anything of it.
But the next time I saw Michelle, she handed me a plastic bag full of sweaters.
“Really?” I said, flabbergasted. “You didn’t have to do this.”
That summer, I asked another acquaintance to meet at Gray’s Lake for a bike ride. It was a place we could fill our tires with air.
Before the next ride, Jill opened her trunk and sheepishly handed me an old bike pump. “Here,” she said. “I don’t need it anymore.”
"Thank you," I said, a bit stunned by her thoughtfulness.
I didn't realize it at the time, but Michelle and Jill weren't just being considerate. They were extending offers of friendship, inviting me to connect on a different level.
It took time, of course. But when I got some bad news last year, they were there for me, listening to me vent. And when I won a small victory, something I was proud of, they were ready to celebrate.
I'm thankful — grateful, really — that we connected. They've become some of my closer friends here in Iowa.
And hey, the sweaters fit pretty well too.
The Des Moines Storytellers Project is partnering with the Des Moines Girl Gang to co-host the first event of the 2017 season. "Besties" will explore tales of friendship — whether fleeting or ever-lasting.
Register journalists Courtney Crowder and Mackenzie Ryan coached storytellers to tell true, first-person tales from their lives. We're excited to share the evening's lineup:
Courtney Crowder is a features reporter at The Des Moines Register. A graduate of New York University, Crowder previously worked at the Chicago Tribune, ABC News, Fox News and AMNY. Crowder is a gummy bear aficionado and avid TV watcher. She owns two DVRs to support her habit.
Shylah Statler is a big fan of emojis. She is one-sixth of the Des Moines Girl Gang leadership team. Statler works to facilitate events and inspire the community through her involvement in projects like Art Terrarium, Skywalk Popup, ZineFest and Market Day.
Sonya Heitshusen is the chief investigative reporter and 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. anchor at WHO-TV. An eastern Iowa native, Heitshusen has won nine regional Emmy Awards, three regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and has been recognized by the Iowa Broadcast News Association. She has completed two Ironman races and six marathons.
Sophia Ahmad serves as vice president of public relations at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Previously, she was director of marketing and public relations at the Des Moines Symphony and Academy, where she continues to serve on the faculty. An Eastman School of Music graduate, she fancies herself a pun aficionado.
Cat Rocketship is an artist and teacher in Des Moines. She draws portraits, is illustrating a tarot deck, organizes the indie craft show Market Day and is a K-12 substitute teacher. Every day, she practices doing handstands, and her five-year dream is to throw a mummers parade.
Roger Dahl is a semi-retired nonprofit professional, having served for 35 years with American Red Cross and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Dahl’s only prior performance experience came through his church’s musicals back in his home state of Minnesota. Dahl and his wife, Sandy, have been married for 35 years and have two grown daughters, Katherine and Kolleen.
Tully Jackson is a mom and wife, residing in West Des Moines. She is PTO president for Hillside Elementary where her two boys attend school. Jackson works as a training manager at Wells Fargo and enjoys reading, writing, spending time with family, friends and binge-watching shows on Netflix.
The Des Moines Storytellers Project is co-hosting with the Des Moines Girl Gang, and featuring true, first-person stories of friendship.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Tuesday with drinks and dinner for sale, and the show starts at 7:30 at the Funny Bone, 560 South Prairie View Drive, West Des Moines.