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The joy of story telling is everlasting
The older I get the more I gravitate to funny people. Funny movies. My children. When the three Klope kids get together they reminisce and tell me stories about things I never knew happened while they were growing up and living at home full time. Had I known I might have been slightly worried. But hearing about their tame shenanigans today brings on laughter. In fact, most of their banter among themselves makes me laugh, brings energy to our family gatherings and fills our home with happy sound. It makes their leaving all the harder even though it’s appropriate that they are establishing themselves apart from their childhood home.
They did not get their amazing humor from me. I’m the worst possible joke teller. I get nervous and either flub the punch line or forget it altogether. It disappoints me, but I have been gifted with really funny young adult kids so my own shortcomings in the humor department are acceptable to me.
When I think about it, however, it’s not as much their joke telling as their stories that keep me in stitches or deeply moved. It’s sitting around the table, stepping away from technology and my familiar prompt that often gets things going: It’s so good to have you all home. Anybody got a great story to tell?
It works every time and last week I found myself with a golden opportunity to connect with my 20-year-old and her best friend. It was early evening, we had no demands on our time and the three of us were hungry. Entice these two with an offer to pay for a dinner of their choice and it’s an immediate date. Knowing this, I make this kind of offer purposely and as frequently as possible. The reward is that I hear the important stuff when we choose a neutral territory, there is good food and no interruptions from other family members or friends.
“Tell me about a moment when you were filled with nothing but pure joy,” I suggested as they dipped chips into salsa and tiptoed through the menu selections.
I looked at them across the table and held my breath. Then came the story and the magic.
It happened a few short weeks ago. My daughter’s friend had been jarred awake by the alarm she’d set. Even though she was tired she pulled herself out of bed and made her way to the kitchen. She had a lot to do and knew that even though she wasn’t really hungry, she’d better eat breakfast and get a move on the day. As she walked through the house she caught a glimpse of herself in a mirror: her eyes were only half open and streaked slightly because she’d been too tired to remove her eye makeup the night before. Her dark curls were nothing but a disorganized mess on her head.
“If only real life resembled the movies!” she thought to herself as she opened the fridge to grab the milk. Involved in her own thoughts, she failed at first to notice her younger brother sitting at the kitchen table. It was his sweet voice that broke into her private thoughts.
“I know you probably won’t believe me, but I think you’re just beautiful,” he commented between bites of his own cold cereal.
There is joy in sharing a moment that fills your heart all over again each time you tell it. Or makes you laugh. Or connects you with a perfect stranger. Or honors someone you know and appreciate. As author Dave Isay says in his book “Listening Is and Act of Love,” “Telling stories shakes us out of a reality TV-induced slumber and redirects our energy toward careful listening, honoring our elders and embracing our neighbors.”
When my dad was alive he enjoyed spending time with my son Dan. Throughout the years they’d do things like build forts from a table and blankets, play games, read together and work on projects. One time they went out in the garage and Dad built Dan a tiny putter from wood. To this day Dan carries that putter in his set of clubs whenever he competes in his high school golf tournaments.
Dad would compliment Dan through the years by saying, “Dan, you’re a gentleman and a scholar.” This was only spoken to Dan and he looks back on those moments with great tenderness, especially when he misses being with his granddad.
Some weeks ago Dan ran into a local store to grab a cold drink and approached an older woman doing her shopping seated in a scooter. She was doing her best to reach an item on an upper shelf, but it was placed far above her head.
“Can I give you a hand?” Dan asked as she worked to raise herself precariously from her seat. She took him up on his offer and pointed out the item. As he set the jar in the basket she looked up at him and offered her appreciation with these words: “Thank you young man. You’re a gentleman and a scholar.”
Tell your stories. There is laughter and beauty in this life and it’s meant to be shared.
Joan Bay Klope is a freelance writer and speaker who makes her home on Whidbey Island. Her award-winning column has run for 12 years in Western Washington newspapers. E-mail comments and speaking requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.