It doesn’t take much to set me off on a journey of “do you remember?” My family has tons of stories, many of them you *had to be there* types that can make us laugh or get teary even years later.
Some are stories that have my parents, singularly or as a couple, as the lynchpin.
One classic is of their days, in their late 50’s early 60’s (about my age now!) when they traveled. They were in a small town mom-n-pop greasy spoon, complete with a gum-snapping, big-haired waitress. They ordered the same thing – the house breakfast, with eggs over easy. The waitress hollered the order to the cook, poured coffee so weak that it looked like tea , and swished off in a flurry of pink skirts to wait on other unfortunate customers. My parents were enjoying themselves immensely, mind you, since they both grew up in small towns in the Midwest. They were more cosmopolitan by then though, my mother a staunch feminist with a degree in business and my father a clever business executive. Their order came up and the waitress sauntered over with their plates. Plopping my mother’s down first, she drawled, “sorry, sweetie, yer egg broke!” She then served my father the same meal, with a pristine unbroken egg. My parents couldn’t wait to get home to share THIS story – for why, when the orders were exactly the same, was it HER egg that broke? Obviously liberation had not reached this pocket of America!
Another oft remembered tale is of my father, who had a wicked sense of humor, and a perfect sense of timing. He was attending a very serious meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the county for which he worked as County Administrator. One of his fellow employees was known for never remembering to bring a pen or pencil to meetings, always scrabbling about at the last minute to beg, borrow, or steal a writing implement. My father planned, well in advance, for the next occurrence of this bad habit. There they were, seated at long tables, discussing weighty financial matters, when this fellow poked my dad and hissed, “do you have a pencil?” Without looking at him, and with a straight face, my father handed him a pencil he had bought specifically for the occasion. (See the image above!) The man started to scribble with it, saw the erasered end, flipped the pencil and tried again. Another eraser. Another flip. Another eraser. By this time, the whole table was watching, trying to keep straight faces. My dad was attentively listening to the speaker, seemingly oblivious of the struggle going on next to him. It is one of the most treasured stories I have of my father, who passed away in 1978, when I was only 26.
There are other endearing stories – my son, who couldn’t say brownies as a toddler, always wanted “drownies” for dessert. Or the time he patted a woman, a complete stranger, on the butt in the supermarket, and told her “I like your bottom” because that was what I told him when I changed his diaper! ACK!
My daughter, on the other hand, seems to have stories in the family play-book that are laden with pathos and drama. She smashed her thumb badly (not that there is a GOOD way to smash one’s thumb…) when she was about 18 months old – and toddled into the kitchen screaming, with her thumb in her mouth. We thought that she had fallen and hit her mouth while playing, since the blood was streaming down her chin. It took us 15 minutes to get the thumb out of her mouth, to discover she had smushed her thumb not her teeth!
Somehow though, the family stories we tell over and over again are not usually the serious ones, but the ones that make us remember fondly the silly things we did, or heard growing up, or when our own children were small, that make us think back and enjoy the memories. Ones that make us grasp that connectivity between generations and experience the power of such memories. It is why I encourage my friends and family to SORT family pictures, WRITE about family stories, and SHARE the treasures of family history not only with the immediate family, but for future generations.Keep a journal or a blog. Label your pictures. Tell your stories. Someone, someday, will be very grateful that you did!