My Grandma has been in the hospital for the past week. (Nothing too serious…just a quick tuneup following a fall) I didn’t get to be with her as much as we both would have liked because we agreed it wasn’t wise to have my 2 month old baby around hospital germs. During the time we did share, I caught her up on recent antics of my crazy boys and we reminisced about past adventures in parenting/great-grandparenting. We laughed about Jack exposing himself at the birthday party (last post) and about the time Logan hung onto the rising garage door. Grandma and I also wondered what tales Norah will add to our collection.
On my drive home from the hospital yesterday, I couldn’t help but think about other family stories. Cars next to me must have wondered why I was grinning and laughing to myself. I am fortunate to come from a long line of storytellers and have spent much of my time listening to the same stories be told over and over. My paternal grandfather once had a country music show in Branson, Missouri and was a gifted storyteller. One of his life mottos was that if a story gets a laugh once, it bears repeating. Granted I never lived with Grandpa Jim, but I never grew weary of hearing his “greatest hits.” Over 10 years since his death, I fondly recall some of those tales. Each family member seems to accumulate their own portfolio of personal tales. In family gatherings, I know that when stories are told about my dad someone will tell about Dad getting chased by a rooster multiple times because after the first rooster attack his older brother told him that he had simply approached the rooster incorrectly. I know that my mom once tattled on her older brother when he “hitted [her] back.” I know that I will never live down licking the peanut butter off a mouse trap (when I was a toddler), misunderstanding a story about hallucinogenic frogs, or declaring myself a “badge hog” in Camp Fire (a scouting-type youth organization.) I don’t mind that the stories retold the most are goofs or mishaps. Wouldn’t it be boring if your legacy was just that you were meek and mild? I’m sure that one of my cousins played nicely but that story just isn’t as fun to tell as the time he mooned the entire family…including my grandmother. (Right, Potter?) I enjoy hearing the stories because it means that I’m remembered. Someone remembers me with love and laughter. I’ve often grieved for the foster kids I work with that there often isn’t anyone to collect these stories and retell them throughout their lives. We continue telling these stories long after people move out of our lives. Trey and I tell our boys about their Papa Jack and Great-Grandpa Jim all the time. Jack is too young to have any memories of his Papa Jack but he already knows that Papa Jack loved to watch sports and that Papa Jack wore his pants up very high. My Grandpa lives on through these stories.
“Meatloaf” is a cue word for my family. Anytime someone mentions meatloaf, giggles are sure to ensue. As the story goes, my mom prepared a meatloaf one Saturday evening to be popped in the often before we left for church the next morning. When we came home from church, we sat at the table and Mom served us our meal. She made meatloaf fairly frequently so this was not a new recipe but this time something was different. The meatloaf had small crunchy things on top that had collected the cooking grease. Dad, David, and I raved about the delicious meal as we tasted the crunchy pieces. Mom agreed that something was particularly good about this meatloaf but she couldn’t figure out what was different. As she began cleaning the lunch dishes she continued to search her mind to understand what made this meatloaf better. She considered the regular ingredients, reflected on the time in the fridge, and checked the oven temperature…and then she realized what had occurred. After removing the loaf from the fridge, she failed to take off the plastic wrap before putting it in the oven. The oven had melted the plastic during cooking and the juice from the meat was captured in the little crunchy pieces of melted plastic wrap. Mom began crying that she’d fed us plastic. My brother tried to calm her by saying, “Its ok, Mom. Our poop will come out in little pre wrapped packages.” Poor mom will never live down feeding us plastic wrap and the rest of us will never live down enjoying it!
I often wonder what stories the kids will someday tell about me and Trey. What crazy family antics will become our legacy? Last week, when my best friend and one of her daughters came to visit, I caught the oven on fire while cooking frozen pizzas. For several days, Jack played out the incident with his plastic pizza and toy kitchen. He’d put the pizza in the oven, close the door, and exclaim “Oh no! The pizza is on fire! Time to go to the restaurant!” Perhaps this will be one of my parenting legacies. It could be worse, right?