Two weeks ago it was my daughter’s birthday and we wanted a cake. Our family has our own baker—a person we call to make our cakes. Now, we’re not rich or afraid to make cakes ourselves. It’s just that Sydnie, our baker, makes incredibly fantastic-tasting cakes. We don’t know exactly what culinary magic she wields to pull it off, but whenever we ask our kids what kind of cake they want for their birthday, the shout “We want a Sydnie cake!” seals the deal for our baker.
To get a cake, I call Sydnie on the phone. She’ll ask who the cake is for and what the occasion is. Two weeks ago I told her Grace was turning 12. “What’s Grace into?” she asks. We talk a bit about what Grace likes and what she was thinking of. We also talk about what shapes of cake pans Sydnie has, and what kind of cake design is feasible for her to have ready in time. We agree on a bird-shaped cake this time.
That’s how telling a story works. Sydnie asked lots of who, what, and why questions. She asked about the context—where and when we’d be serving the cake, and how many people would be there. During the conversations, we considered a few different options. We talked long enough to build shared understanding. And, because we’ve gotten lots of cakes from Sydnie, we already have some shared understanding about how they’ll look and taste when we get them. If we didn’t, we’d have wanted to see some pictures or taste some cake, and the phone wouldn’t have worked well for that.