Old icebreaker is new again

Dave and Terry Dunkelberger show-and-tell at dinner

Created date

December 18th, 2019
Dave and Terry Dunkelberger smile, standing in front of a beautifully landscaped busy with pink flowers.

Dave and Terry Dunkelberger revive show-and-tell to spark lively dinner conversations.

When Dave and Terry Dunkelberger moved to Ann’s Choice two years ago, they wanted to get to know their new neighbors in inventive, new ways. “We could ask about careers, kids, and former lives,” says Terry, “but we wanted to get beyond the typical small talk.”

While researching icebreakers, they remembered bringing objects to school for show-and-tell. Says Dave, “We thought this was a great idea because objects tell you a lot about their owners and what they consider valuable. We keep things that mean something to us.”

They pre-arranged the game with dining companions, asking them to bring something but not to reveal it beforehand. It had to be small enough to hold in your hand or fit into a bag. 

“Don’t bring grandma’s favorite chair,” Dave says with a chuckle, “no matter how interesting the story is.”

For their first show-and-tell, they shared the original hospital bill from Terry’s birth in 1935. “My parents paid $56 for an eight-day stay, plus $5 for the delivery room,” says Terry with a smile. 

The document was the kind of conversation starter they were hoping for. They and their friends continued reminiscing about childhood memories for an hour after they left the dining room. 

All in the family 

Having shown and told several times, Dave observes that the conversations always come back to genealogy. “Family stories are our most powerful memories,” he says. “An object linked to a particular time, place, or person evokes a lot of nostalgia.”

Terry has shared a ceramic plate her artist grandfather made for her when she was young, and her brother’s pen and ink drawings. Tablemates have shared fascinating mementos, including a lock of hair and a silver dollar from a first haircut, and a ceramic replica of the synagogue where a couple was married. One woman performed a magic trick she learned as a child. 

Dave notes that several people whom they’ve asked to participate demurred, saying, “I don’t have anything worth sharing.”

“Everyone has something,” says Dave. “It’s not the thing itself, but the stories behind it that generate so much interest.”

Enlightening activity

These icebreaking pioneers plan to continue the game as long as there are new people to meet. Their list of potential objects includes a paperweight Terry made at the Wheaton Museum of American Glass in New Jersey; a letter from author and historian David Hackett Fischer, who wrote the book, Washington’s Crossing; a U.S. patent certificate Dave earned for a chemical process that he says is “too confusing to explain;” and wedding photos. 

While the game has been fun and enlightening, the couple agrees they would have made new friends without it. “Everyone here is so welcoming,” says Dave. “The amenities and activities are first-rate. We absolutely love it here at Ann’s Choice, and we look forward to sharing many stories in the years ahead.”