When we started talking about holding a family talent show to liven up reunions, my sister-in-law, baby brother’s wife, lamented that she doesn’t have a talent. We corrected her. Everyone has a talent. Someone else might have to identify it for her, but everybody has one.
The identification of a person’s hidden talent is usually a discovery made by some objective observer. Up until the moment of revelation, no one may know such skills existed in ordinary humans.
While sitting on the sofa next to my husband, my sister flexed her bare toes. He stared in amazement at how they danced like free-thinking tentacles. As he gazed in awe at her circus-worthy contortions, she grabbed the flesh of his thigh between her first and second toes and gave it a mighty squeeze.
“Ahhhh!” he let out a high-pitched yell. “You toe-pinched me!” When he caught his breath, he gasped, “How’d you do that?”
Eureka! My sister’s true talent had been exposed.
Just then, a click, click noise attracted our attention to my cousin, who was igniting a lighter next to his own foot. We paused in our conversation to ponder this behavior.
Someone eventually asked the appropriate question: “What on earth are you doing?”
“Lighting my sock on fire.”
“Ohhhhh,” we responded as a whole, both fascinated and horrified.
My cousin claimed that he could light his sock on fire and that the flames would encircle his foot without charring the sock. Delightedly, we declared it his talent.
He begged off saying anybody could do it. I regret to report, though, that our audience apparently prompted a case of stage fright, as he was unable to ignite his footwear.
That unfortunate outcome caused the brainstorming session to cease. My sister changed the subject to malign a naturalist she met at a nature center near Tuscaloosa, Ala. The man, she reported, denies that people can smell snakes. He thinks snakes do not emit odors detectable by the human olfactory sense. Despite her argument to the contrary, he held his ground.
“I’ve smelled a snake before,” she huffed. “Lucy, you can smell a snake, can’t you?”
I affirmed that indeed I can. Others nodded, saying they can as well.
She turned to baby brother, who was known to have an acute sensitivity to the aroma of adders. “I told that man that my little brother is the best snake smeller I’ve ever known.”
Baby brother did not demur. He said that, in fact, he not only can smell an unseen snake, he can identify the type of snake it is solely by its odor. We all agreed that snake sniffing was baby brother’s unique talent.
During all this raucous chatter, my father slept in a chair, undisturbed, his eyes closed, his head cocked back, his mouth slightly open. Now and then a snore leaked out or he twitched, but other than that he snoozed through our antics. The only thing we noted that had changed was that he had migrated from one chair to another after lunch.
My mother announced, “Your daddy’s special talent is sleeping around.”
She waited through our stunned silence. And waited. And waited. My dad snorted and grunted and shifted in his seat.
My sister-in-law, after hearing my mother’s proclamation, suddenly decided that she didn’t need us to help her discover any hidden gifts.
Like that naturalist who has ruled out human snake smellers, she’s not budging on the matter.