Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Story-tooting

I recently read that blogs are all about people tooting their own horns.  This must be a generalization and not a rule.  Because on my blog, I toot my kid's horns and I tell you all about my farm failures, my irregular ass, and my massive existential malaise we're all so sick of hearing about but is on going and has been reduced to one impossible wish: that I were someone else, someone with clear goals, an obvious purpose in life, and lots of mentors.  As it is, I remain me.  And that's not a very good horn to toot, so I don't.

Unless it's GI-related and/or I am very tipsy, tooting is not an area of expertise for me A friend of several years got really upset to read an article about me in the paper detailing things I'd never told her because I just didn't want to seem like I was bragging. But now I'm wondering if perhaps bragging isn't sometimes in the eye of a jealous beholder.  Otherwise, how should I let you know who I am and the experiences that have formed me?  It's not obvious from the life I have now.

I'm watching this in my daughter, and it's difficult to just listen and not grab her by the lapels and shake her, screaming, "NOOOOO!!!!!"  In her robotics class, she's way younger than the team she's on and she mentioned at step 4 that the thing looked crooked, but was voted down as too young to know what she's talking about.  She did not insist.  No, she did just what her mother would do and think.... oh well, no big deal for me if we do it over at step 4 or 18.  She told me they're supposed to work as a team so she didn't push.  But aren't the other kids supposed to work as a team too?  So, the instructor chastised them at step 18 and they have to take the whole thing apart and start all over again.  I asked her if she would do things differently next time and she shrugs and says, "What do I care?  I'm in the class two hours a week whether the things works or not."  ACK!!! THAT is just my style of thinking and it has not gotten me past the starting line!

So, here's a toot.  This fall, I started a storytelling group to do the children's story at our Unitarian Universalist church.  I am so passionate about this and got shot down, ("Over my dead body"), when I first asked if I could help with that part of the service.  I wanted to explain that I'd done them at our church in Wenatchee, but no one had ears on.  After that person was forced out of their power, I approached her replacement.  And this time I asked if I could get more people involved.  I'd love to do them every week but that's a lot of stress on my bladder (I get really nervous and pee 127 times before I speak) and I think church is a place for people to give their gifts, especially the ones that have no other place. And what if other people need to share stories too?  I wouldn't want to hog.  So, I asked around.  I put on a well attended storytelling workshop a couple months ago.  And, at least the technical aspects of this project are all going well!

I am very happy with how my stories have gone (aside from the photographer incident) and they have been well received and I feel that I have united with an important piece of who I am and my purpose here.  So, you see, it's not ALL doom and gloom and 40 years in the wilderness up in my head.

And if you have to go now, I understand.  But if you have a minute more, I'll share with you my latest successful story.  I was flattered to hear that this story had been repeated many times at holiday gatherings.  It is a true story.  From my life.  Blandly named "Sweet Sixteen."  This is written as a telling story, with kids sitting at my feet, for our new member service.

Story:

Have you ever moved to a new town?  Been to a new school where no face is familiar?

When I was 15, my family decided it was time to move.  But they hadn't decided where when I left to volunteer in Africa for a summer.  When I left, all I knew was that I wouldn't be coming back to the town I'd known my whole life.  While I was gone, my parents move to South Carolina, on the other side of the country.  I flew from Africa to Florida where I picked up my surprise plane ticket to my new home.

I was a few days late for my new school.  It was my Junior year.  And a couple weeks in to it, my mother said, "So, your birthday is coming up." (Saccharine voice)
"I know." (teen angst voice)
"You'll be turning 16."
"I know." Sixteen is an important birthday in our culture.  It is supposed to be a big party with lots of friends.  You get your driver's license.  The world opens up.
"Do you want to have a party?"
"Who would I invite.  I don't know anyone."
"Sure you do, honey.  You MUST know someone."
"Nope."
"Don't you talk to anyone in the halls?  There are people in the halls, right?"
"Nope."
"Well... let's think.  Who do you have lunch with?  You must have lunch with someone!"
"No one."
"Oh come on now, that can't be true.  Who's at the table where you sit?"
"People who don't talk to me.  People who already have friends.  People who are probably going to have big gigantic sweet sixteen parties."
"Honey, there must be Some One!  Put on you're thinking cap!"
"Nope.  Face it.  You just moved me across the country to a whole different place right before my birthday."  And let me tell you, Columbia, South Carolina is VERY different from Bellingham, WA.
"I'm not having a party."
"Well, would you like to go out for dinner then?"
(Shrug)  "I guess."
And soon my birthday was here.
No one at school seemed to know.  I didn't tell any of the people I didn't know.  But the secretary said, "Happy Birthday," as I passed the front office.  I guess she had access to all that sort of vital information.

When it was time to go out for dinner, my mother had a pounding headache and just couldn't go.  So my father took my sister and I out.  I can't remember where we went, what we ate or even if the waitstaff clapped and sang Happy Birthday through the restaurant with a cupcake.  What I do remember is that it was pathetic and I was bummed.  I moped back home and trudged up the stairs to our apartment.  Not the large farm house I'd known before, but a small, bland, city apartment.  I was trying to be happy for clean drinking water and food.  I was trying to be thankful for family and I was trying VERY hard to NOT cry.

And I opened the door.

And do you know what I heard? Get ready.

SURPRISE!!

And all around the tiny room were faces that I kind of recognized.  Faces from school, from the tables I'd sat at, from the classes and the hallways and even an American friend I'd met in Africa.

It was quite a surprise.  And I'm still surprised to this day!

How had my mother cobbled together this party?  As far as I could tell, she'd made it out of thin air.  But where I'd seen people sitting near me, she'd envisioned friends.  Were I heard a thin "hi," she'd heard, "I could be your friend, if you want."  Where I was waiting for friends, she saw how I could find them.  And she'd called that secretary who'd known my birthday, and she'd asked her to keep an eye out and to report to her every person she saw me talking with and every person I'd eaten lunch near.  And my mother called those girls, and invited them to our new apartment.  Where the cake was chocolate, the balloons were bountiful, and the party of near-friends was only slightly awkward.

And that is the story of how I found a place for myself in South Carolina, how a bunch of girls made room for the new kid, and how, thanks to my loving and imaginative mother, I had a very sweet 16.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know why, but that story just made me cry. Your mom rocks. so do you. Happy Birthday for all the birthdays I missed!! :)

    ReplyDelete

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