Chapter 45: Storytellers

We are Storytellers the headline declared on The Bitter Southerner podcast. I had to listen. How I want to be a storyteller.

Maybe I am a storyteller? I recently told the story of how I got in trouble in 7th grade for writing “<teacher’s name> SUCKS” on a desk. But lo and behold I was the only kid who sat in that desk all day, so they nailed me. Five days in the slammer (ISS – in school suspension). My mom was devastated. I was her oldest child and a typical one at that — mostly a rule follower and non-risk-taker — so this was very out of character for me. She couldn’t believe I would do something so horrendous. But, you know, it was 7th grade. That was my rough patch. I wanted to be grown up. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be liked. Maybe I was already a little bit of all those things, but what 7th grader has the confidence or maturity to recognize that kind of stuff? (And BTW, the teacher really wasn’t great. I know I had classmates who shared my opinion.) But thirty-seven years later I don’t remember the five days in ISS. I don’t remember if my friends thought I was cool or if they liked me. I just remember my mom being so, so mad and disappointed and my dad being mad because I had made mom so mad. And it seems that this kind of thing may be hereditary to a degree because I was telling this story to my 8th grade son who got in trouble at school recently for writing a note that included some unsavory verbiage. He got 2.5 days in the slammer. He apologized to us profusely. And lost privileges at home for a week. We talked about getting this nonsense out of his system now before he starts high school next year. By the end of the week he was cleaning his room, walking the dogs, doing extra jobs, begging for renewed privileges. I hope he learned the lesson. I wonder if he’ll remember my story.

Maybe I am a storyteller? Just today I remembered the story of the chickens. Don and I were pet sitting for some friends who were on vacation (maybe around 1999?) and these friends had two precious spaniels and about 5 chickens. The chickens stayed in their chicken coop and only had free reign of the enclosed backyard when the dogs were inside. Another friend had watched the pets the first half of the week and it was our turn to take over the duties. So we showed up as planned to check on the pets and feed them dinner. I opened the back gate and a dog greeted me with a bloody smile. I was confused – what did he have all over his face? And then I saw the massacre in the yard. Strewn about were bloody chicken wings, bloody chicken bodies. Bloody. Chicken. Parts. Everywhere. And two happy dogs who apparently had no idea the jig was up. I slammed the gate shut and ran to the car to Don, who was still there, and screamed “THE CHICKENS!” Thank God Don grew up in the country. He has the patience and skills of someone who can live off of the land. We walked together to survey the scene. And here is where my memory goes black. I feel sure we cleaned up the dogs and cleaned up the carnage, but I just don’t remember those details. Don probably does. I just knew that my friends loved those chickens and now we had to tell them over the phone that the chickens were gone and the dogs were murderers. Amazingly, these friends forgave us and are still good friends to this day!

What stories do you have? Telling our stories reminds us of our humanity. Of all that we have in common. Of hard moments that we survived. Of the instants in the course of this crazy roller coaster life that bubble up and ring clear and help us become who we are. And become who we are still becoming. I hope you will take a moment to tell a story today.