Sweetly generous, real, and, when appropriate, exuberantly wingnutty.

When my sister, Mia, and I went off to elementary school back in the 70s, we brought along with us a pretty fanciful sense of what grown-ups were like.

Other than mom and dad, our models for adulthood were our mom‘s friends*, who were a constant presence at our house and some of the most sweetly generous, real, and, when appropriate, exuberantly wingnutty — what I call Sugarmapley — people I’ve ever met.

*Dad had lots of friends, too, but he was a traveling journalist and they tended to be on the other side of an ocean and hard to have over for bagels.

Mom’s Sugarmapley friends and their families singing the traditional Thanksgiving-at-Aunt-Mickey’s, on-the-spot-composed holiday anthem, at her apartment one year during the early aughts.

Of course, when we entered the wild world, we learned that Sugarmapley people are, unfortunately, pretty rare. I think this kept our eyes wide and ears peeled for them.

Over the last few years, like many people, I’ve become a huge consumer of podcasts. And, not surprisingly, the podcasts I like the most are the ones with Sugarmapley hosts. On the Media with Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield; Amicus with Dahlia Lithwick; and The Bugle with Andy Zaltzman are a few.

But I haven’t found any podcasts with all-Sugarmapley guests. So, I decided to create one. Three actually, but just one to start.

One thing that every Sugarmapley person I’ve ever met loves to do is tell real stories about the people who — out of pure, sweet generosity — changed their lives. They love talking about people who were present over a long period of time, like a dance teacher, but they also love talking about those wingnuttily unexpected folks who they encountered very briefly, like someone they met just once on a flight from Toronto to Madrid, told them a catalytic story, and whose name they never even learned.

This is the idea behind If Not For.

Christoph telling me about Jenő Barcsay, an artist he was obsessed with as a teenager. It all started with this book, a gift from his parents. (Christoph’s brother, Benedikt, a digital animator, got a copy too.)