When I go to someone’s home to do an interview, I never know what I’m walking into.
To get the real story, it’s best to interview people at their homes, and sometimes the story is about a collection they have or a hobby that requires me to see them in their setting.
I like to see people where they live. It gives a writer a much better insight into their personalities. That freaks people out sometimes, so I meet them at a restaurant or coffee shop.
I did a feature once on a basket-weaver. He lived out in the boonies, and I will never forget the interview. His wife answered the door holding a baby pig and a switch. I was taken aback. During the interview, the pig ran around, as did a mangy-looking dog. The baby pig came up and licked my leg once, and I tried to kick at it and continue the interview without breaking stride.
A couple of weeks ago, I was working on a love story of an older newlywed couple — he is 92; she is 83. The man gave me directions, and I took off toward Guy, following my directions to the street and house No. 6.
I heard a dog barking before I got up to the door. The man opened the door, and the first thing I noticed was that he was wearing pajama pants, a T-shirt and a robe.
“Well, you look comfortable!” I said. The smallish dog was jumping wildly, and the man was trying to get it to calm down while leading me inside. I asked what kind of dog it was. “He’s a mutt,” he said. I told him it looked part dachshund.
Then I saw I’d interrupted their breakfast. On the bar were bowls of oatmeal and raisin toast. His wife — also in a robe — was getting something out of the refrigerator. She glanced at me nonchalantly, as if it was normal for a stranger to be standing in her kitchen at almost 10 o’clock in the morning.
My mind was racing. Why were these people not dressed? Was I supposed to hang out while they went to get ready? Had they changed their minds about the interview?
“Am I early?” I asked. “I was going to take your picture.”
The woman put her hand up and primped her hair, jokingly.
Then it hit me.
“You’re not Jack Grimes, are you?” I asked the man.
“No,” he said, and he laughed a little.
They told me where the couple I REALLY was supposed to interview lived — it was No. 6, but on a street perpendicular to theirs.
“Why did you let me in?” I asked, laughing. “I could have been anybody!”
“Well, you looked familiar,” the man said, as I left.
I told him who I worked for, and he nodded, seemingly familiar with the newspaper and me.
When I told this story to my husband, who bent over laughing, he said, “Did he look 92?” No, but he didn’t look 50, either. And because I was so sure I was at the right home, I was having trouble processing. What still blows my mind is that I was a stranger, I had my camera bag, and I was talking about taking their picture. They didn’t seem the least bit surprised.
With directions from the man who was not Jack Grimes, I drove down to the right No. 6, and the real Jack Grimes — fully dressed — answered the door. I told him and his wife, Elsie, what had just happened. Oh, that was Bob’s house, he said.
We all laughed.
For the next hour or so, we talked about their lives. They were amazing, happy and obviously in love. She showed me her husband’s woodworking handiwork, their wedding pictures and a detailed family quilt her daughter had made for her 50th anniversary with her first husband.
I asked her daughter’s name and discovered to my surprise that the woman’s daughter was my older son’s first-grade teacher, whom we loved.
When I left, the newlyweds told me to come back anytime.
I’m pretty sure Bob and his wife would be happy for me to come visit, too.
Maybe I’ll drop in for breakfast again some day.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 237-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.