Saturday, December 01, 2012

Please, tell me a story.

My kids say this to me all the time. "Mom, please, tell us a story."

And I usually make up something silly, half-based on a book or fairy tale or movie I think they might not know as well. But sometimes, some rare nights, I tell a truth. An anecdote from my own life, or something we've done together, or a piece of history. And those are the best.

And I'm just now figuring out why.

We've been back home five days and I still struggle when people ask me, "So, how was your Thanksgiving?" If I just say it was fine, I'm lying. If I say it wasn't great, people might think I'm disparaging my time with my family. I usually say something along the lines of: "It was okay, it was hard, but good to be with family." Something generic.

But my life these days is anything but generic. I'm raising three boys. I'm usually bursting at the seams with ideas for blog posts -- crazy things my kids have done, brilliant thoughts I have while scrubbing the bathroom, ideas for novels. So many things I never take the time to catalog. But mostly, in the midst of the everyday, I want to write about my mom. And I want details.

I am starting to understand why I felt empty, even in the midst of many people, over the long Thanksgiving weekend. I finally sat down and read this article, given to me by my mom's younger sister, the one who shares her birthday. The line that choked me up was this:
I've learned, now, how to talk to someone who is grieving. My first lesson came in the hospital, when the nurses, who were aware my mother was slipping away, asked my father, "How did you meet?" which gave him the pleasure of recollecting and sharing that moment when their eyes locked over a campfire in college.When someone is gone, we are hungry to talk about them, to conjure them from memories, to linger long enough to recall vivid moments.
Though I had filled my belly full of good food, and felt satiated with family and fellowship and some rest, and had made little mentions here and there about my mom over the course of the Thanksgiving weekend, it was not what I needed. I needed real story. I needed space to "recall vivid moments" and I wanted to hear them from those who knew her best.

When my dad and I visited my mom's grave together after the funeral, I remember asking him what his favorite date they had been on together. Until that day, I don't think I had ever before heard about his laundry-delivery route and how they got to know each other in conversations in the car as he hauled dirty frat-boy clothes from the fraternity houses to the cleaners. And on the night of her funeral, he told a wonderful story about how she took him riding on the farm when they were dating and she gave him the wildest horse they had, almost as if to test him. And he tamed it!

Those are the kind of tales I need to hear. They are bits and pieces of her tapestry, and I'd like to know them better.

So, if you see me, and you knew my mother, please, tell me a story.

And if you didn't know her, just ask. I'm sure I can think of something.

concert, just us girls, circa 2006