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The Unfinished Stories of Our Lives

By Leslie Ginnes March 20, 2024 Mindset

Most of our stories are unfinished… incomplete – the stories that need pages for the telling. Most of the illustrative quirks, curiosities, endearments, and the very molecular breath of personality go into the dust when the body dies.

My Dad’s Unfinished Story

There is the story of the hard times my dad suffered after his factory, Ironmasters, a wrought iron furniture manufacturing company, burned to the ground. The insurance he needed was not what he had. It is the story of my dad walking from his factory to his neighbor down the street, another factory owner, to ask what it would take to borrow from him, to borrow from his family to keep his business going. My dad knew who he was asking. It was a sober last-ditch ask.

The answer is where the story starts. It went something like, “Bob, I like you too much to lend you the money. You know what it would mean, and I will not do that to you. I should, but I won’t. The answer is no.”

Did my father nod and simply walk away? Had he tried to persuade? Did he go to the corner deli and get a pastrami sandwich? I don’t know, nor will I ever.

Remembering a Chance Meeting

Walking on 64th Street toward Central Park on a brisk late autumn day, the sunlight was a cool yellow with overtones of gold and a breeze whipped leaves and scarves as if in a dance. It was a most beautiful day, and I was filled with joy and the love of my new husband.

Outside a door, held by the liveried doorman of an apartment building, stood a young woman. Under the awning, she was huddled inside a long, plush, dark mink coat. Her face registered; it was Tina, my best friend from 8th and 9th grades, whom I hadn’t seen in years.

Tina was such a pretty person. Her hair was thick and blond, lush with swirls of caramel. We both had lavish manes; it was one of our many connections. I could feel my happiness beaming toward her. I was with my beloved; it was a glorious day, and now I see this dear old friend. My delighted face met a face that certainly remembered me, remembered my name, remembered our connection, but was clearly at war with how to respond to our incidental encounter.

She seemed to pull further into her mink shell as she said hello.

Before we exchanged more than a few inconsequential pleasantries, a chauffeured black town car pulled up. You could tell it was there for her; the air shifted in that way that presages an action. Thus, cued, we waved goodbye and walked on.

That was 38 years ago, and I find myself thinking about those few moments. She remains an untold story. I so wanted to listen to it. I remember feeling words poised, experiences begging to be shared. She had been my best friend. I could feel her feeling; I could feel her weighed down as a heavy sac would be, unseen but borne, nonetheless.

I have made up many narratives for the lack of her story. My urge to know so I could understand was at first relentless, but over time, it was not enough to drive me to try to find her and ask.

Stories Lost to Time

In high school, I had a classmate named Wendy. Wendy became a standard to which I aspired for four decades.

I could not figure out how she did it. When a sunny, warm day would turn grey and rainy, I would become soaking wet, my waist-length hair frizzy and knotted, homework ink dribbling down the pages of my notebooks. Wendy, on the other hand, in her little sundress and espadrilles, would pull out a spring raincoat and umbrella, keep her waist-length red hair dry and smooth, her homework tidy and safe in her bag – all of which she did not have with her when she arrived at school that morning.

Awe and fury.

When I would go to her home, her room would always be perfect. The radio was always playing the best music; her underwear drawer was a work of art, and her beading materials – it was the 1970s – were agonizingly organized and just screamed interesting!

Over the years, I have tried to find her and have remained unsuccessful. I have never been able to see how her story unfolded. I could never ask her how the hell she managed to have it together seemingly and always. It was an art form lost to time.

Seeking Stories

In the summer before my senior year in college, I worked in Manhattan, commuting from New Rochelle. When the nights came in early, and the weather held at bay, I walked from the station to my apartment. It was a pleasure of mine to pass by and look at the homes that fronted on the streets. These lovely homes contained stories that I would never know.

I filled the vacuum when I passed by windows with people in them. I sketched out a story about this home and assigned an outline of a personality for each individual I saw, imagining how they interacted with each other. Each lit window, occupied or not, offered me a peek into the vignette of how other people lived and stirred my desire to hear the story not yet told.

Do Other People Do the Same?

I peer into grocery carts belonging to other shoppers to see something new, learn something new, learn about them, and gather pieces of their story.

When I wash the dishes or do the laundry, I imagine others doing the same tasks and wonder how they do it. Are they rushing? Are they careful? As a friend said, are they finding beauty in the act? For me, these musings dispel the banality of the ordinary, and thus, I am sewn into the fabric of life all around me – life I cannot see but can now reasonably believe is there.

People shut the door to their homes as they go out to attend to the list of must-dos. I wonder if they ever drop their keys not once but twice, or if, as they place the water bottle into the carry-all and when adjusting their arms, do the things they just put in occasionally cause everything else to tip out?

Actions caused by distraction are mostly a one-person show, and you are your own audience. Sometimes, they serve as the lead-in or fade-out of a bigger tale that has yet to come to be.

Mostly, we forget the passing moments of our lives when we realize the car needs gas. But were we to consider life’s filler moments as a narrator would, we, the reader, would be thinking, “And so what happened then?”

(Not) The End.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What unfinished stories have you wondered about? Have you wondered about the lives of long lost friends? Do you ever think about other people’s daily lives and how they do their chores?

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Beautifully written, this article left me wanting more!

Leslie Ginnes

well, something else no doubt, will come from wherever this piece did, and having occupied the similar space it might do the trick.


Interesting article, thank you

Leslie Ginnes

You are most welcome. Do you carry curiosities of unfinished tales from your life?

Harriet Cabelly

How beautiful! Such a unique perspective. Thank you for sharing this piece.

Leslie Ginnes

my pleasure. I am glad that it pleased.

Frances Siejkowski

This is so beautifully written. I have felt the same way so often, wondering about people who were such an important part of my life that I no longer know. I’m 78 and on a recent trip to visit the grave of a loved one who has passed I wondered about all the lives that were represented there and what their stories were like.

Leslie Ginnes

It is like leaving pieces of our lives like tiles creating a path back through the years. Thank you for your gracious compliment


This article strikes a chord with me, as I am often thinking about unfinished stories in my life. I also wonder about other people’s lives because everyone is living a story worth sharing. I’m hoping to turn one of my unfinished stories into a novel. It will force me to be introspective while I try to create a narrative other people will see themselves in. Like the author of this article, I too am distracted by life’s daily tasks and need to take more time to reflect on the meaningful parts!

Leslie Ginnes

the tasks; these are the chords that, when thought upon, connect us. Like women from the village well, sharing their lives through commonalities.

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The Author

Leslie Ginnes’ goal is to freely share the expertise and care given to her, which nurtures her creativity. She is 65, looking back and looking forward and wondering how we can lift what is too heavy to carry. Finally, accepting everything will change, and it does in a split second.

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