Tuesday, March 19, 2013

when no one was home

i read an article yesterday on the nytimes (when it's online it's on not in, right?). it was about how people who have a lot of family stories and a good sense of their family stories are better at coping both with tragedy and with life in general. and it made me think about sabin's craving for stories. every night at bedtime, she wants a horse story or a cat story or a childhood story. and sometimes no stories come to me, but often they do. stories of runaway ponies and broken carts, races up the second row of trees in the shelter belt when the trees were small, stories of first trophies and first place plaques in obscene quantities or that time that we decided when no one was home to teach switch, our calm paint gelding, to drive. we harnessed him up, made him pull a tire once around the driveway and then just hitched him up to the cart and went for a ride. or the other time when no one was home and we let elvira (a goat) in the house and she trimmed all the plants on the front porch. or the other time no one was home and there was a tornado warning and we brought skip's galley lad (a horse) into the basement. and i say "we" to implicate my sister, but i was nearly six years older and probably should start to take responsibility now. tho' that decision to drive her friend home in the chevette at the age of 12 (because no one was home...hmm, that was apparently a theme) is all on her shoulders, as i was off at college by then.

family stories fill our lives. dad's watermelons in the trees one hot summer, tales of warming his feet in a fresh cowpie as he walked to school barefoot on a frosty morning, or that time the old horse dumped him off into the water tank. or was that uncle red? and don't forget the disassembled ball point pen that got him into so much trouble he never picked up a tool again.

husband remembers at about the age of 4, riding his tricycle down to the harbor where ferries were coming in and out all the time and putting the trike up along the heavy beam, right at harbor's edge and careening as fast as he could along the water, precariously balanced and gripping the handlebars of his tricycle. he also remembers being spanked for it and going right back and doing it again.

we are a most complex sum of our stories and we are constantly adding new ones to the equation of our lives. and to think that they enable us to cope makes so much sense. i wonder if, in the contexts where there are no stories, it's there that things go wrong. there where the stories are separate and not shared, hoarded and even concealed. because stories need to be told, to take on the warmth and life of those who tell and those who hear them. imagine what stories are just waiting to be told.


celkalee said...

Never one for stories, at 95 my Mother is now telling a few. When her Grandparents immigrated from Scotland and Ireland they wanted to leave the 'old country' they wanted to leave that life behind, they were Americans. Their stories died with them. I have always felt so bad about that. Most of my family stories came from my Mother's half sister. I told my children every story I could remember, they loved it. So keep it up, the oral history of your family is special for you and yours. Even the cow pies!

DahnStarr said...

Warming your feet with a fresh cow pie, must be a N.D. thing. My Grandmother and Auntie did the same thing when they were growing up on their family farm. One of the many reasons my Grandmother told me that she would n.e.v.e.r. marry a farmer! BTW, She didn't.

Veronica Roth said...

Holy smokes Julie write them all down as best as you can remember. One day Sabine and your step daughters will be so grateful. I wish I knew more of my grandparent’s stories, and now that their father is gone, Jon and Kerstie are desperate to keep hold of his stories.