Sunday, November 30, 2008


Every family has stories, the stories everyone in the family knows by heart and can finish if someone starts. These are a few of mine.

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I heard this one countless times as a child, and every time Grampa told it, I loved it more.

When Grampa was a little boy, he and one of his brothers were playing down by the creek behind the family farm. They happened upon a turtle nest (pit? what do you call what a turtle lays eggs in?), and were so taken with the round, dimpled turtle eggs that they filled their pockets and lunch pails with them. Carting their treasures home, they smuggled them into the house and played with them for hours, rolling them around like big marbles. When it was time for bed, they wanted to hide their new toys away from their mother's eagle eyes. They scampered down the basement steps and secreted their find away in various nooks and corners.

I can imagine Grampa as a little boy, skipping around the basement, his shoulders hunched in an effort to be furtive, seeking out dark spots, tucking round leathery eggs underneath burlap sacks filled with dried corn, balancing them on top of jars of canned peaches and beets. I can hear him giggling behind his hands, trying to be quiet, shushing his brother when they both get too loud. And I can see him tripping over the stairs as he rushes back up to get ready for bed, trying to get ahead of his mother's prompts. 

The next day dawned, and as usual, Grampa and his brother were expected to complete their daily chores. In the hustle and bustle of the day, they completely forgot about the turtle eggs that lay quietly all over the basement. That is, until the day a few weeks later, when my great-grandmother went down the basement stairs to fetch up some pickles to go with supper, and was greeted by dozens of tiny, clumsy, flapping turtles. 

Grampa always said he'd never had his behind reddened like that, before or since.

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My dad is a police officer. Has been for over 20 years. He's seen his share of awful and amazing things, and has dozens of stories. But one of the stories that is the most vivid to me only starts off scary -- it has a happier ending.

My dad and his partner were called to the scene of an armed robbery. One of the people they found at the scene was a man who had been shot in the chest. The two officers began to administer first aid, but it became apparent that the victim's lungs had been punctured, and he couldn't draw breath. Thinking quickly, my dad slipped the cellophane wrapper off of a pack of cigarettes lying nearby, and held the thin film of plastic to the man's wound. He says he heard the plastic instantly sucked tight to the man's body, and all of a sudden the victim drew his first deep breath -- the film had sealed the wound, temporarily giving the man a closed chest cavity again so that he could breathe. If it hadn't been for my dad's presence of mind, that man might not have lived, but instead, he was conscious and breathing when the paramedics arrived and took him to the hospital, where he received treatment for his injuries. And survived.

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When I was a little girl, I would beg my parents to read stories to me before bed. I was happy to hear my books read over and over, but my parents got bored soon enough, and one night, my dad decided he could tell just as good a story as any in a book. So he settled me under the covers and told the following tale.

Once upon a time, there was a princess. And she was a good princess, but sometimes she got bored in the castle. So one day she went outside to play. Her parents the king and queen told her to stay close to the castle, and she promised she would.

But she strayed a little far into the forest, and as she was walking, she heard a noise behind her. Boom, boom, boom, she heard. She turned around, but there was nobody there. Startled but brave, she kept walking, hoping she'd imagined it. 

Before long, she heard the noise again. Boom, boom, boom, she heard. Once again she whipped around, but there was nobody there. 

Scared now, the princess realized she didn't know the way home. She turned in the direction she thought would take her to the castle and started hurrying to get out of the forest. And then she heard it again. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! She turned around, and there, standing before her, was an enormous boogeyman. He had great sharp teeth and huge claws, and he was ready to eat her up.

The little princess whirled around and started running as fast as her legs would carry her. She could hear the boogeyman behind her, roaring that he would catch her. Quick as a flash, she ran up a big hill, and putting her shoulder against a huge boulder, she pushed with all her might. The boulder broke away, gathered speed and headed straight for the boogeyman, getting faster and faster as it rolled down the hill. And just as the princess had hoped, it rolled right over the boogeyman, and mushed him flat as a pancake. And so the princess went straight home, and never disobeyed her parents the king and queen again.

The end.

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Yes, every family has stories, and over the last month, I've told a number of mine. Now that National Blog Posting Month is over, I'm releasing myself from my self-imposed commitment to a daily post. But I've found that I like posting frequently, Internets, so I'm hoping that I can keep things fresh for you here at writesoftly. I do love feedback, so if you find yourself chuckling or sneering or wiping away tears or craving a Pizookie, leave me a comment to let me know.

And thanks for stopping by.

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