Sharing Stories

Recently I mentioned it was the anniversary of my father’s death and a friend asked me to tell her a story about him. This simple thing reminded me of how much power there is in a story. In this case, it was a way to remember and share and bring a tiny piece of him back to life. But that power is the same, even if the story is about a place, or a time, or a song, or a pet. Or even simple things like how a person’s day was. Tiny stories are as powerful as novel-length ones.

I followed that conversation with reading something similar in a book. In it, the character is looking at worlds facing war and he realizes that prejudice is adding to people readying for violence (this is simplifying the plot considerably). He decides people need to see each other as people rather than where they are from or what race the belong to, so he starts interviewing others for their stories and traditions, and then he broadcasts those stories out into the universe.

Again, the power of story.

So I want to ask you the same thing. Can you tell me a story about something that resonated with you, or meant a lot to you, or made you laugh, or pause, or think, or cry? Share something mundane or earth shattering so that I can sink into a story and share that place in time with you.

I’m going to go make a cup of tea and then settle into the chair and wait for you.

28 thoughts on “Sharing Stories

  1. Here’s a short one for you (I am reminded of it with Columbus Day coming up … I know, I know. Not his day anymore…. however….). My mother was only half Scandinavian, but quite proud of it (it was a female-side of the family thing. Whenever my grandfather would claim that his ancestors came over on the Mayflower, my grandmother would proclaim that hers were here to meet them. She claimed descendance from Leif Erickson — a claim so far unsupported, like most family legends) (and yes, I notice that not one of my relatives even gave a nod to the indigenous peoples) (I digress, I see. My husband would ask if I was going to get to the point any time soon ….). To continue; Columbus Day sales used to be widely advertised on TV and such, and apparently all this reference to an Italian was beginning to wear on my mother. After enduring one such barrage of ads she turned to my sister and, quite huffily, remarked, “Entirely too much is being made of that man.” To this day, my sister and I laugh ourselves to tears over that.
    I can see how you (and anyone) might be scratching their heads over why we found it so humorous, but you had to know my mother, and be familiar with the whole set up that had its roots in generations past … and the fact that my mother missed the point entirely — no homage was being paid to the man — retailers were just trying to sell their products. That was kind of her m.o. — missing the point. It was anyone’s guess as to what kind of a spin she would put on anything.
    And, about now, my husband would go back to reading his magazine …. it’s okay. You really had to be there.

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    • I thought it was funny! And these days there are lots of people that probably would say the same thing. She’d fit right in with that comment now. I got a laugh out of the unsupported family claims to fame. That happens so much in genealogy. My family didn’t have connections to famous people like Leif Erickson. We are directly related, however, to the man who was the first to successfully steal artwork out of Russia. PBS even did a documentary on him. My only family claim to fame – a thief.

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      • My dad used to say that his side of the family were horse thieves and draft dodgers! We’ve done a little research, and I think that he wasn’t far off! Pretty impressive that you have a relative who was an art thief! I wonder if he had anything to do with the disappearance of the Amber Room? (I understand the Germans took it out of St Petersburg in WWII)

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  2. I love this Lisa.
    And I got right in the spirit. As soon as I read your post I immediately thought “I will just write about an unexpected visit I had tonight with a dear friend”. I began to spin off into my mind and consider which details I would include and how I might tie the short visit into an entire story. I smiled inside, excited to get to writing.
    I was standing in the living room, and realized that Fred was watching a movie and I got distracted for a moment. What’s this movie? I know I’ve seen it, oh yeah! It’s Captain Fantastic. I love this movie. Look there’s the scene at the Gold Bar grocer. I lost track of the movie, did a few chores. Then tuned in again. Oh yeah, right. The family’s going to the funeral of their mother. Damn, I forgot how sad this is.
    Quick trip up the stairs to talk to Nat, mentioned the movie playing downstairs.
    “That’s the very best movie I have ever seen about grief”, Nat said to me.
    Oh right.
    Back downstairs I see the scene where the family steals the mother’s body from the graveyard. They load the casket into their school bus and now the children are gathered around their mother’s body. Just being with her. Loving the sacred final hours and moments they will spend with what was the repository of who their mother was.
    And of course I am crying then as I remember the last night I spent with the repository of who my son was. Laying on the floor near his body. Crying softly, getting up to touch his hair again. The last sacred hours.
    The owner of the funeral home had allowed us to stay with him, just left for home and left us there. Never had done that before she told us, but knew that we needed to be with our son until it was time for him to go to the crematory.
    Those last hours with him, near him, are the most painfully important time I can recall after his passing.
    I wish I had taken another day. It would never be enough.

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    • I’ve never seen that movie. I wanted to, since it was filmed in our area, and since I had to approve some of their permits. But it sounded like a sad movie and I wasn’t sure I wanted to let sadness in my brain, if that makes sense. But more than all that, I love your words here about Sam. I remember lying awake that night, thinking of you there with him. Crying, of course. But also thinking of how we no longer hold those ‘wakes’ where we have those last few hours. Your use of the word ‘sacred’ is perfect. When did we lose those sacred hours? When death became a business? I hope the staff at the funeral home realized the importance of those moments and went on to allow others to be with those they loved. I remember sitting next to Fred the next day. There were others in the room, quietly coming in, some leaving, some sitting. I remember feeling Sam’s presence but that might have just been my tears. And I remember standing outside and seeing this young firefighter sobbing (Schuyler) and thinking, for some reason, ‘where’s his mom?’. I realized I was a mom and I went to him even though I didn’t know him and asked if he needed a hug. I can’t tell you how long I hugged him while he cried. And you know how tall he is and how short I am! Ever since then, he occasionally comes by work to chat or to bring in his babies. We both hug and we both manage for the most part, not to get teary while we visit. Love you so very much.

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      • Oh Schyler! Glad you could hold him right then. Did you know he named one of his twin daughters Sammie?
        And the funeral home is an ‘alternative’ type place. Maya found them in the days after Sam died. I love their mission and would gladly work with them. The owner is well known in the death positivity movement.
        And re: Captain Fantastic, find the time to watch it when you have some time to process it. Maybe when you might expect to be shedding some tears anyway. And watch with Art if you can.

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      • I’ll look for it. Art will definitely cry – he’s the one who cries easily at movies anyway. I did know about Sammie and what a wonderful thing that was. I’m intrigued by the death positivity movement.

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  3. okay here is something funny, or it was funny to me at least. I haven’t had a lot of funny stuff in my life lately, so maybe that made it even more hilarious to me. I love my job as a nanny, most days and in general. I know there is still lots of stuff that’s annoying, just like any parent would feel on a day to day basis. I try to be compassionate and understanding 😉
    I am at the playground with my 3.5 year old girl and the new little 1 year old boy we now hang out with on some days. I obviously stay closer to him, but let him explore. He doesn’t walk yet, so I encourage him to walk from one thing to the next holding on to poles, making sure he doesn’t smack his head on things, etc…
    We are all in rain pants, rain jackets, muddy buddy (rain onesy) for the little guy. It has rained on and off most of the day. The playground is completely wet and it makes it slippery. My girl is really good at climbing and holding on and knowing her body position in space. But I get a mini heart attack every time she climbs higher then my arms can reach, so I have to turn away to let her be herself. I can not watch her sometimes. But I know that she is fine. I do keep telling her to watch out here and there. That day I tell her several times to be careful because the rain made things slippery. She is fine balancing over rain covered balance spots towards the stairs and up to the big slide. She has done it several times in good weather. I watch her going up because she can not fall down from where she is. So no mini heart attack there. 😉
    This slide is maybe 8-9 feet high? ( I am not good at guessing measurements, but I can not reach up my hand to her at all) Its a steep slide, slim and shiny metal. The guards on the sides are low, even on the top. My girl loves to hang on the bar above the top of the slide and swing for a bit, pulling her feet up high. I have to look away because, yes mini heart attack! In my mind I see her losing her grip and smacking onto the slide and falling down… etc… you get the idea 😉
    I realize to late, that the slide will be wet and extra slippery. Have you ever seen any kid slide down a wet slide in rain pants?? Its like a water slide.
    So she goes down before I can call her back and she zooms down like an arrow, pops up into the air at the bottom and lands on her feet, Perfect 10/10 landing!! I am impressed and the laughter is bubbling out of me. I laugh to hard and have to hold myself back, because she looks just stunned and completely silent. She turns to me and I wonder if she got hurt after all, but the laughter of her zooming down like on a water slide is so strong. I am trying to hide my amusement and ask her, “Are you okay?” She looks at me horrified and yells “NO!”
    I ask her to come over (still standing by the baby) and she does. I hug her and rub her back. I ask her if it was really scary, because it was so fast and she says yes. I acknowledge her emotions but then my laughter is still there and I chuckle again and tell her that it looked so funny though how she went down so super fast and popped up at the end. She smiles a little at my explanation. I am sure her heart is still racing… I tell her how impressed I am at her landing and that she did a great job with that. And then I encourage her to maybe do the small slide, to have a similar fast pop into the air without the scary part. She is game. Even though she asks for my hand this time. And at the small slides I can reach. She does a couple slide and pops, all perfect landings, just with the added hand holding. But this time its safe in her eyes and its fun. And we laugh together.
    I am glad she is safe and I am glad she is such an athletic kid who landed well. It looked like in one of those youtube videos… I still laugh thinking about it. But today I had to turn away again when she went back up the same climbing structure from the side. Today all was dry and safe. But you know those huge spaces in between the ladder steps… omg! mini heart attack! 😀

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  4. My story goes back to when I was 24 years old. It was an eventful year. In May, we had been married. Then in late November my husband and I had just bought our first house. We moved from our tiny house trailer to a real house out in the country with 2 acres all to ourselves in Kentucky.

    Across the road, was thick woods and a creek that you could hear rushing after a rain. It was sublime and remote. Our new house perched on a hill close to the road, had a picture window in the living room looking out over the porch and road to this woods, we were so excited.

    At the time, I had quit my job and was attending school full time. I was to graduate in spring of 1995, just less than half a year away. My husband had a decent paying job but worked the night shift in Indiana so the drive was an hour and a half one way. Looking back, I don’t know what we were thinking with that kind of commute. Stars in our eyes I guess. We know better now.

    I’ll never forget the nights leading up to what happened. Two nights before I would wake up at 2 something am in a panic that someone was in the house with me. I could feel them. I just knew there was someone there… in my room. But everywhere I searched in the house, no one.

    The second night, it happened again. I was woken up at 2 something am. I walk the house again, flipping on every single light switch and checking every closet. I made my way to the back den where the wood burning furnace crackled and the flames danced all while heating up the house quite nicely.

    My two cats following me around and looking up at me all the while as if to say what are you doing up? I couldn’t shake it, I knew I felt someone there. I felt them actually looking at me in bed.

    This was before my paranormal days, so while I had had encounters, I really didn’t know much about ghosts or spirits. Just that I had an interest in that sort of thing. So I wasn’t able to discern the difference between a real person’s presence and a spirit’s. In fact, in my heart I knew someone had to have been in the house and had somehow gotten out as I was walking around turning on the lights.

    After securing the locks once again, I knew I had to return to sleep as I had school in a few hours. I grabbed a large butcher knife and took it to bed with me just in case. I put it under my pillow and managed to go back to sleep.

    A couple of hours later, my husband came home from work and slid his hand under the pillow while adjusting himself to sleep and found the knife. He was not pleased. Did I mention we had a waterbed? Hah. He argued with me about what a stupid thing that was to do. That I was just dreaming and no one had been in the house. He said he could tell by the gravel driveway that no one had drove up and there were no foot prints near the door.

    He didn’t believe me.

    A couple of hours later I got up and went to school like normal and later in the day he went to work.

    The third night, I went to bed at my normal time which was about midnight. Once again, I was woken up at 2 something only this time it was to the smoke alarms.

    Scared I turned on the wall light and looked down to see my two cats at my feet looking to me in terror. Our house had very low ceilings, it had been built as a tannery but converted to a home later. Me being only 5’1.5″, could stretch on my tiptoes and reach the ceiling with my middle finger. So when I turned on the light, the smoke was already at my head and I had to crouch a bit to not breathe in the smoke.

    I ran to the den where the wood burner was and could see the fire inside. It had a glass door and the flames were all contained inside. I couldn’t understand where the smoke was coming from. There were no flames anywhere in the house.

    Each night, before my husband went to work he would pack the wood burner full, as it was our only source of heat. That way it was burn until he got home in the morning to fill it again. It had an electric blower to spread the warmth.

    I remember thinking oh no what a mess! It must be backed up and filling the house with smoke. All I could think about was how it was going to stain everything up and I’d have to wash all my walls down, curtains and shampoo the carpets to get the smell out. So I started to open as many windows as I could to let the smoke out.

    After that I called my in-laws. They lived about 15 minutes away. I told them the wood burner must be backed up and smoke was filling the house. My father-in-law said he was on his way. I hung up the phone and put my clothes on.

    While waiting, I went back into the back den. This time flames were shooting out of the ceiling! I screamed and ran into the kitchen and called 911. The person on the other end of the line told me to put the phone down (not hang up) and get out of the house.

    I grabbed my cats and my purse and ran to put them in the truck and slammed the door. I remember standing there in the cold, dark night watching the smoke pour out of my house, helpless.

    One thing that struck me as I stood there waiting for help to come was how many stars there were. It was a cold late fall night. It was December 13th. I could see millions of stars on this incredibly clear night. It was quiet except for a strange hissing sound that got louder and louder and turned into a low roar.

    It seemed like an eternity had gone by and no one was there. I remember screaming out into the night knowing no one could hear me. We had no neighbors. My house was burning and no one could help me. Out of desperation, I went back into the house.

    I grabbed the biggest container I could which was a gallon pitcher and filled it at the kitchen sink. I ran into the back den and threw the water as high as I could at the flames. Instantly, the glass lights on either side of the flue shattered. I ran to get more water.

    Finally, my father-in-law showed up. He ran in the house and yelled have you got a water hose? I did, but since it was almost winter, we hadn’t hooked it up and I wasn’t even sure where the spicket was. We ran outside to try and find it. No luck. We ran back inside and remember filling another pitcher full of water and taking it to the den where the fire was. The smoke was getting so thick, I could barely see.

    Just as I threw the water up to the ceiling again, a firefighter walked in the door that was standing open and grabbed me and said I had to get out.

    I don’t remember much after that. They made me leave. My naive 24 year old self did what I was told. My father-in-law said go back to their house so I did. I made a stop to friends house on the way and banged on their door because I saw their light was on.

    Tony was getting ready for his very early shift as a truck driver. I stood at the door and he answered. Carolee came to the door after he yelled it’s Jaime! They both were standing at the door and I was on the outside as their faces made a wrinkle, what’s that horrible smell they asked?! It was me.

    It hit me just then as I cried out our house is burning down.

    Looking back soon after, I knew I was getting visits from what I like to think was my grandmother. She had to have been warning me of the upcoming fire and to be ready to get up and leave. If it weren’t for the visits and the smoke alarm, I wouldn’t be here to tell the story. I would’ve died from smoke inhalation and then burned up.

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      • We were told that it was electrical. That the wood burner’s fan wiring had ignited inside the walls. Yes, we worked very hard, after waiting for insurance to pay, and rebuilt the house ourselves. It was basically gutted. We moved to Indiana shortly after finishing it to get closer to work. Strangely enough, the house caught fire again a few years later and burned to the ground. No one ever rebuilt on the site.

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      • That’s just weird about it burning again. Thankful you weren’t still there. Obviously that house wasn’t meant to be your home. And now you have your beautiful home and koi pond!

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      • I believe you’re right, it wasn’t meant to be ours. And I agree, burning down again is just strange. We never heard how it happened. I am grateful for my beautiful home and koi pond now though.

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  5. oh my gosh. I got lots of stories! 🙂 I will share this one though.
    My step dad and I did not always get along. We were two very different kind of people. We did not do much together that bonded us. He was kind of a prickly pear, but I knew he contained a soft spot inside. So, I always remember anything that we did, that meant something. When I was about 8, we were going to go camping. We had a big family so it was usually a big deal. He wanted to take the kids fishing. But, I did not own a fishing pole. So we went to a Safeway, the biggest store of our town. Just him and I. I remember the aisle he took me down, and it contained fishing poles. They arched high into the air, like a covered bridge, I looked up amazed at them all as I passed under. He went through them, and even got down on his knees to show me how the reel works, and what I thought of each one. I still remember the brand name of the one I ended up choosing. A Daiwa. And it was blue. It was my prized possession for a very long time. The pole is now gone, but the memory is safe with me forever. 🙂

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    • I caught my very first fish last week while on vacation with my sister. A lovely lake called Curlew Lake. Freezing cold on a fall day, and our truck hit by a moose on the way down the mountain in the dark. And then fish chowder with the perch.

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