We had a great Christmas this year. Phil and I requested unusual gifts from my dad. Here's what we got:
Yes, those are wooden canes. My dad makes them for people who need them. He loves it. We think they're awesome. So awesome, in fact, that we decided we needed some for us before Dad gets so old he can't make them any more. Who wouldn't love to have a cane their dad made for them?
We spent a lot of time with my family over the weekend. Family gatherings for us usually involve lots of food. At Christmas, we have lots and lots of eggnog, mixed with Sprite to thin it out a bit, and cookies. This year, Mom made gumdrop bread (not fruitcake), which is not my favorite, gingerbread cookies, which I love, and my great grandmother's Scottish shortbread cookies, which are my favorite. I ate far too much, but that's the norm around these parts. (I call your attention to the matronly pooch protruding in my picture. So much for sucking in my gut. It scares me that I look so much like my brothers.)
I noticed something this weekend about my family. We love to tell stories. My whole life has been filled with stories. I thought it was normal--that every family did this. My future sister-in-law, who hasn't posted in over a year (ahem), informs me that this is not so. Her family gets together and picks on each other. She tells me that our storytelling is one of the things she noticed right off.
Does this mean I am a spinner of tales? A weaver of subtle yet complicated plots? Do I come from a long line of verbal magicians? Hardly. Our stories are probably not worth publishing. But we love to tell them. And we love to laugh. Because the stories are always funny--to us at least.
There's the one about my Grandma A., who beat up a boy several years older than she when he was teasing the little boy who lived with her and her family at the time. Years later, he still remembered her, although she had forgotten the incident.
There's the one about my mom, who, at a tender age, caught an entire bucketful of mice and brought them proudly into a houseful of Relief Society sisters to show her mother. She tripped on something and the bucket spilled. Amid the screams and squeals as the women jumped onto the furniture, the frightened mice ran back into the only thing familiar to them: the bucket. Mom returned the mice to the great outdoors, and Grandma B. eventually forgave her.
Another time, my mom poked a stick through a hole on the back of the outhouse. Grandpa B. got a bit of a surprise when his danglies got prodded. He came roaring out of the building and chased my mom all over the ranch until he caught her. She got a right good spanking.
And then there was the time my dad and his friends put a huge pile of autumn leaves on a neighbor's porch. They rang the doorbell and ran to hide in the ditch. Unfortunately for them, another young man saw what happened. When the neighbor opened the door and the leaves blew into the house, the young man said, "You'll find the boys who did that hiding in the ditch over there." The neighbor came after them. For the first time in his life, Dad ran faster than any of the other boys. He never got caught.
Dad's love for practical jokes is legendary. He once trapped some students, who had been sneaking into the Dixon Junior High gym to play during lunch, in the piano box that was their hiding place. He and the gym teacher nailed the box to the stage floor after the knew the kids were inside. (Don't worry--they drilled breathing holes.) The boys were let out after lunch was over.
One junior high student kept sneaking up into the school attic. So Dad and Max Mitchell nailed the attic door shut. When a very worried mother called about an hour or two after school had ended, she was informed that her son was trespassing in the school attic and would be let out as soon as she arrived to collect him. Now that's creative discipline. Of course, Dad couldn't do that now, even though he never laid a hand on the students.
Dad and his fellow teachers had lots of fun sending students around to each other looking for an umbilical cord for the "broken" projector. Conversations went something like this:
Gullible student: "Mr. Mitchell, Mr. A says he needs an umbilical cord. Do you have one he could borrow?"
Mr. Mitchell: "Hmmm. Well, I used to have one, but I don't have it any more. Why don't you go ask Mr. Stanley?"
After getting similar responses from other teachers, the student would return unsuccessful. They were told, "That's okay. We'll try to make do with this one instead," and out came the electrical cord. (These same teachers used to send kids to the nearby grocery store looking for Traffic Jam.)
Of course my sister has tons of good stories from all her years working as a nurse. There are the weird names she writes down (Permalua is one of my favorites), the clever comebacks to rude patients, and the hilarious stories of patients, physicians, and coworkers. (Her friend once told a doctor, who had recently permed his hair, "Hey, Dr. So-and so! Nice pubic hair transplant!")
And then there are my brothers. All five of them know how to tell a good tale. There's Lessel Peeper, who tells of his days in Primary and the time Dad taught him about feminine hygiene products. Then there's Nihao, who tells of life with braces and things of mystery. These are the only two who are "online." The other three could tell tales all night long and still not be finished: tales of things they did as kids that Mom never knew about; jokes they've heard; things their own kids have done.
As for me? Y'all can make your own judgements about my abilities as a storyteller. But even if I'm not that great, I still love to tell a good tale.
I can't wait to be seventy just so I can tell people how my dad made my cane. I can just see it:
"Oh, really? Could he make me one too?"
"What are you willing to do to get one?"
"I'll do anything. That's a really awesome cane."
"Then I guess you'll have to die."
Dad will get a kick out of that one, I'm sure. He loves that kind of stuff.