Show & tell. We learn this pattern in preschool and kindergarden. Teachers ask us to bring in something that is special to us, or our favorite, or descriptive in some way. Then we show. Then we tell. In preschool this exercise meant that I brought my black cat Pepper to class with me for a day. I hoisted Pepper over my shoulder and walked around the circle of students. “This is my cat, Pepper. He’s black.” Amazing that I didn’t win an Oscar for the performance, really.
While seemingly juvenile, show and tell acts as a jumping board for a wide array of human interaction. Because, when we boil it down, don’t we spend our days showing and telling? Boardroom meetings, class presentations, dinnertime, out with friends, asking for directions, etc. It’s all show and tell. There’s the sensory; there’s the explanatory. There’s exchange.
My cousin Will, who studies in Arezzo this semester about an hour away from Rome by train, came into Rome with his girlfriend and a couple of friends this past weekend. I met them on Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the day in their company. As most were returnees to The Eternal City, they put themselves at my mercy for sightseeing, with the only stipulation being that food must be involved… Well, of course.
So we spent the day traipsing around Rome – starting at the Vittorio Emmanuelle monument, getting a panino or two in Campo, perching on a fountain in Piazza Farnese, sampling gelato near the pantheon, tossing coins in the Trevi, striding the Forum, greeting the Colosseum, walking Circus Maximus, winding through the Jewish ghetto, and ending up in Trastevere. As you can imagine, this was a full day, and they were troopers. We rewarded ourselves with Penne alla Vodka at Tony’s in Trastevere. Good vodka sauce speaks to the soul – Americans may need to rethink this chicken soup franchise.
Will just said “take us around.” So, I did. And, I’ll tell you. It felt like show and tell. It felt like Rome was a little bit mine. The tiniest bit. I felt pride in the city. (My city? Not mine, but borrowed perhaps.) I could take them to all of those places without a map, without getting lost or taking indirect routes. I had bearing. I had place. I had know-how. I’m gloating? I hope not. Showing and telling them about my time was so rewarding, so reflective. I felt a part of this city that I am a mere visitor to. No longer a bystander. Somehow their temporary state as visitors added credibility to my longer temporary state.
Also, showing and telling emphasized the importance of the collective experience. What is travel, what is life, really, without sharing? Without exchange? Don’t we need interaction to somehow comprehend what we ourselves are seeing and feeling and experiencing? I think so. Everything becomes more worthwhile with exchange. It forces you to think about importance, – what is worth sharing – and the articulation reveals sometimes subconscious thoughts.
I kept thinking, how does the young man at the Palermo hostel that we met plan to travel by himself for 6 months? How can he do this individually, isolated? And the answer is that he cannot. He must meet people, like me at the hostel, and share his experience. He must tell his story, give his recommendations. He has to create temporary friends, temporary family. (I am lucky enough to experience the reality of both while I am here.) He must show and tell. It’s fundamental to our nature. Sometimes the sharing is as simple as Pepper being a black cat, other times it becomes philosophical. Either way, in the showing and the telling, we learn something about our place, our psyche. We gain grounding. It’s as much for others as for ourselves. The interaction takes on life, it adds something reflective and eternal. We show. We tell. And, we are better for it.