Tuesday 20 February 2007


My family has a rich tradition of storytelling. Not the novelist type of storytelling but the kind of storytelling that starts with a real event and then throughout the years gets told and retold so many times by so many people at so many events it evolves into something only barely resembling the actual real event. By that time, the story has been told so many times no one is entirely sure what did really happen. And does it really matter?

Worse than that we tell the same stories over and over and over and over. I watch my step-mum's eyes roll back in her head each time one of these story telling sessions begins. She has heard these stories sooooo many times she must be eternally bored with them. But not us.

There's the one about my grandfather (aka Pop) putting dynamite down the outhouse hoping it would clear the blockage at the bottom. He didn't anticipate that it would blow up and out rather than down. Nanny would tell you how the sh*t and paper hung from the trees for a 2 mile radius and no one came to visit due to the stench. Or the time family went to pick my Uncle Bob up at the airport when he was returning from war. My mother had a few too many drinks and got into the back of the station wagon and was leaning on the back window (which was rolled down). Someone complained it was a bit windy so he rolled it up with my mother's fingers trapped. I love listening to these stories no matter frequently they are told. Each person can tell the same story but somehow it becomes their own by the way they tell it.

Nanny ran over one of her sons, my Uncle Ed, when he was a boy with her car, twice. She was telling him to stop playing with the door handle or he would fall out and get run over. Well, guess what? He fell out. She ran over him. And in her moment of panic, she put the car in reverse and did it again as if to make the point. We all learned our lesson. Listen to Nanny. She can foresee the future. Of course, the story evolved into she did it intentionally (which of course she didn't).

There is a rather rude story about my sister and my cousin, Valerie, torturing my grandmother on one of their road trips from Colorado to Nebraska for the annual family reunion. I won't tell it here for fear of embarassing her but it never fails to make us bust a gut laughing when it gets told.

I miss those big family gatherings where these stories got told. We would gather around my grandmother's kitchen table and play games: Farco, Rummikub, etc. My Uncle Bob would always cheat so you had to keep an eye on him. My cousin, Chris, Bob's son, would cheat too and if Bob and Chris were playing at the same time, well, you might as well fold and take your game elsewhere. The games got loud and could go on for hours and hours. I remember first bringing my husband home and introducing him to Farco....and the stories. He thought we were all just a bit eccentric. The stories would come out and we would all end up laughing. But he too has grown to love the stories.

But we would talk as much as we played. About everything and anything. And the stories would evolve. This is where we learned about each other. We learned to look at our grandparents and parents as fallible humans rather than omniscient super humans.

I am getting older and my memory is fading. I can't remember some of the stories and it makes me sad. The annual events at Nanny's house used to remind me of all those stories and I didn't write them down. Oh, how I regret that.

What are your family stories?

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