Friday, November 26, 2010

Weekly Reflection (week 44): stories

Did you know today is StoryCorps National Day of Listening? In our home, telling stories is a favorite pass time for Cowgirl. Rides in the car, bath time, waiting in line and of course bed time provide the time and space for Cowgirl to demand "tell me a story!" Daddy's are the best stories (he does teach screenwriting after all and is slavish in his adherence to plot, character development and narrative flow) in that they are wildly creative. A current favorite is an Egyptian mummy hero called Fun King Awesome (say it really fast and you will also understand The Husband's sharp sense of humor.)

The stories I tell are not fiction, but a recounting of our family's history and fall into the domain of StoryCorps project. When Cowgirl wants details of her life, she comes to me. "Tell me about the time there was a noodle in my diaper" is one favorite (with details I believe you prefer not to read) and generally any story that involves her making a mess that we had to clean up.

Learning about the storytelling project, I am reminded of a project I've put on my "to remember" list: an art journal/scrapbook recounting the important stories from my life with Cowgirl and the things I want to tell her from my heart that right she may be too young to fully understand. A book of my wishes and wisdom if you will.

So I find myself considering What stories do I want to preserve for my daughter? And for myself?

Some of the most powerful memories and moments for me were from our first weeks as a family while in China. Those weeks were an intense and accelerated process of getting to know, understanding, trust and bond with each other. As a new and adoptive parent, each and every sign of attachment was a celebration. Mealtimes were often the settings for our greatest victories.

Now, if you have children, image taking a 23 month old out to dinner every night in a restaurant for close to three weeks. Add to that the fact that you and said child are still on unfamiliar territory: this little person is packed to the brim with well formed notions of what is acceptable and what is an affront to their very core.
What will upset and what will calm them is still a mystery to you. A side complication: one adult is a vegetarian and the other a more adventurous eater while the child will spit out anything deemed offensive (and you have yet to determine which foods fall into that category.)

Taking all these factors into account, the victory of a quiet dinner with plates cleaned can be fully appreciated. One such night was a dinner in a Japanese restaurant. It was a rainy day and we decided to stay within the hotel complex for dinner. The restaurant was fairly empty and so we figured we would not be bothering any other diners should an Event occur. (One such Event ensued when I took a plastic cup emptied of cheerios away from Cowgirl - she had been chewing on it and I worried the edge of the container would cut her mouth - and she promptly erupted into shrieks that froze a full room of diners as they watched our hasty retreat.)

Cowgirl's favorite foods while we were in China were noodles and fried rice. She became something of a connoisseur of fried rice: she sampled Chinese, Thai and Japanese versions of the dish. Initially distrustful of the Japanese style - it had bigger chunks of vegetables than she was used to - I put her on my lap to try to feed her. There is nothing more comfortable and comforting than a child on your lap. Their little bodies seemed designed to slip perfectly against your torso, they heads resting against our hearts. That night, she was my snuggle puppy nestled into me and like a baby bird accepting bite full after bite full of fried rice from my chopsticks. Odd were the french fries that were part of her dish, and she conveyed her displeasure by jerking her head away from the offending items. She loved her little container of a yogurt drink and sipped carefully from the straw as I held it up to her mouth. She ended the meal with a favorite new treat: Cheerios. Essential to our well being in those days was to always have a stash of them on hand.

Towards the end of our meal, another couple was seated near our table. Occasionally I would see them stealing glances our way. As we left, the young man asked us how long we had been a family. When we told him six days, he was shocked. He went on to explain how he had told his girlfriend we must be back to celebrate the anniversary of our adoption. He had no idea how comforting his comment was and how his observation confirmed what we had been feeling: we were a family.

What stories do you cherish? What memories stir your heart and light up your soul? How do you preserve and share your history, your life? Recognize the stories we tell celebrate the value and meaning of our everyday life. Love is there, in all the glorious details.


  1. Your beautiful story brings back a memory that is very important to our family. It was that very same Japanese restaurant in the White Swan where Ava tried and devoured cherry ice cream. By my critical standards, we could barely call the gritty frozen stuff ice cream, but it was one of the only foods Ava was REALLY interested in and has been ever since. I'm not sure who recommended the restaurant- it could have been you- but it's fun that we both have vivid memories from the place.

  2. i love this -- all children just LOVE hearing about their younger selves, don't they? and to have a journal of memories would be such a treasure when they're grown -- for everyone.

    this reminds me, i used to do a thing on my blog called Touchstone Tuesday...where i would try to capture a moment that reminded me of the joy in the everyday...the power of the simple stuff. i really should get back to doing that....because that's where the emotion-memories are...


  3. Children are a natural to receive and tell stories. Isn't it a lovely tradition? My own son often asks me to repeat a handful of stories, sometimes I try to tell them exactly one way, other times I try to draw them out longer by adding an extra detail here and there. Occasionally I speed-tell them and I always feel awful during and after. Thank you for your kind words on my blog, they gave me a lift when I needed them most. As for the Drawing Lab book, I am thoroughly enjoying it, although I have always considered myself more of a drawer than a painter. It is full of neat ways to step out of the box to create and even though I don't love all of my results, I am loving the process I go through doing the exercises. Have a great rest of the weekend!

  4. We are BIG time story tellers in our house, too. One of my favorite remnants of this is when we happened upon a youngish, 20something girl with a bright pink mini dress... long dark hair, brown eyes, a shy smile... Emma (then eight years old) took one look and said, "Look, Mom, its Miss Foley!" (My first grade teacher at Linden Avenue School!)

    Recently Emma, now thirteen, attended a poetry performance of mine. Many of my poems are story-telling in content and style. She told me I had her in tears... a surprise from my thirteen-year-old... I know it enriches in ways I can't even say or know, but I do imagine the stories living further in the lives of MY grandchildren.

  5. I love hearing your story Lisa..
    big hugs my friend,