The Stories We Share
by Linda N. Hobbs
My family is very small and scattered. There's just the four of us, my mom and two brothers. My brothers and I have families of our own, but for the most part, family "reunions" consist of just us four.
We always get together in February. Mom and I have birthdays a week apart, and somehow it has become tradition to meet in that particular month. We don't meet for holidays. We don't even send gifts anymore. There's just the February visit for two or three weeks.
When we arrive and all the bustle of settling in has ebbed, there's really not much to do. We play cards and watch old TV shows that mom likes, usually "Murder She Wrote" or "Touched by an Angel." Mostly, we just talk.
Inevitably, the conversation turns to memories. I'm sure all families do this. We start describing stories from when my brothers and I were kids. We all remember the same stories, and have told them countless times, but we tell them again, always laughing and cheerfully making sport of each other's dignity in memory of our less than brilliant moments.
Once, when I was maybe ten years old, mom bought a swimming pool. It was one of those cheap, blue, above-ground pools, about fifteen feet across. We set it in the backyard on the long, broad concrete driveway that ran from the front of the house to the separate garage in the back. Both the garage and our house were adobe style with brown stucco the color of milk chocolate. Most of the homes in Albuquerque are like that. The pool stood under an expansive mulberry tree that shielded us from the blistering desert sun. The air smelled of parched evergreens, the hint of car exhaust and baking earth, baking grass - a baking city. Cicadas buzzed endlessly in chorus, oblivious to all but their song.
We loved that pool, and spent hours splashing, swimming and playing.
One game we enjoyed was "the wave." My brothers and often some friends would gather at the center of the pool and start slowly jumping up and down, gaining energy as the water caught rhythm with our movement, getting stronger and stronger, rising higher and higher until we had a tremendous, sloshing "wave" that lifted us high, then plunged us back down as we screamed with each massive swell.
One day, we had an especially magnificent wave going. The water boomed and crashed, soaring and slamming back down, vaulting us higher and higher as we laughed and shrieked with delight. What a ride! It never occurred to us that all this might put a bit of a strain on the cheap plastic siding.
Suddenly the pool exploded. The siding vanished, and thousands of gallons of water roared like a little tsunami across the back yard. Everything was flooded. Mud gushed across the patio, creating mini deltas all the way to the back door. No one was hurt, thank goodness, but it was a disaster. We weren't worried about the yard or the pool. We knew something much worse loomed in our future - the moment mom got home from work, we would probably never live to see another day.
Of course, we survived, never knowing that someday down the road, this would be one of our favorite stories.
All families have stories, which they share again and again. Some stories are fun, some are sad or just a recount of an important time as we hash over details, trying to remember who was where, doing what and why. This is what gives us a sense of place, of context and meaning in what would otherwise be just a series of random events. This is a family's history, to be cherished and passed across the generations.
But there's more to it than that. Neighborhoods also have stories. So do cities, states, nations and ultimately, the entire human family. Our stories are a sort of correspondence with ourselves, a way of saying, "Let me tell you about myself and my people." It's a way to help expand the perceptions of others, and possibly break down barriers and misconceptions.
When we tell stories, we have the opportunity to bring our human family closer together, and hopefully, bring a little more love and understanding into the world. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone should at least give it a try. It's what makes us family.