Friday, December 29, 2006

Tell Me A Story

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.


compulsive writer said...

I'm having a good time here trying to visualize your mom going around prodding people's danglies. Beat that with a stick!

(yeah, your family has great stories, but one of my favorites of yours will always be the peeing on the roof story.)

~j. said...

Those are some nice canes! My friend's daughter got a cane for Christmas last year...when she was 11. She just...wanted a cane.

We're story-tellers/reminiscers, too. Like the time my brother and I pulled over to take pictures of one another lying down next to the dead deer...

Geo said...

Those are some great stories, and I t hink it's the best sort of tradition to get together and tell them. I come from compulsive storytellers too, though with me the gene mutated and turned into writing rather than speaking. I don't know if I do it well either, but I keep on trying.

I think you are great with stories. I loved the ones you told yesterday about the turd baby lady and tough Zonk and his panties.

And I love your canes. You're smart to get your dad to make them for you now. Real heirlooms!

Lyle said...

To be treasured for sure!

I don't think I ever made the connection that your dad worked at Dixon.

Julie said...

Dad worked at Dixon long before you were there, Lyle. He transferred to Timpview before I ever started at Dixon.

AttemptingthePath said...

i had a dream I met you. You came over to my house and you didn't quite know what to say when I gave you a hug.

it was weird

Julie said...

AtP: Yeah, me not knowing what to say would be weird. And I've had dreams of meeting you and other bloggers I've not yet met before as well. Shall we chalk it up to great minds thinking (or dreaming) alike?

Lesleigh said...

OK Julie. I got the hint. I've finally done another post. So I'm averaging one a year...that's not too bad!

And about your post...I've only heard maybe one of those stories and I've been around for 4 years! Those were hilarious! I'll never look at your family the same again!

Carrotjello said...

Your vest, and that cane look very nice together!

Lesleigh said...

Another thing your family is big on is telling jokes. I can't tell you how many times I've been at one of your family gatherings and had someone come up to me and say "Have you heard the one...."

That's not a bad thing though. Most of the time the jokes are pretty funny.

Notice I said MOST of the time. :-)

compulsive writer said...

Heck my grandpa worked at Dixon. I think it was the first year it was open. Julie, am I old enough to be your mother?

Elizabeth-W said...

Happy New Year! I have to tell you--after I teased you elsewhere about the sprite/eggnog gagging experience this AM, I had an epiphany. I was in the shower, and realized that that mixture isn't so terribly unlike a root beer float. So, while it still sounds gross in theory, I'm willing to try it out...say in about 11.5 months? ;) Please accept my most humble apologies.

Emily said...

Canes made by your dad---very nice. How long ago was your profile picture taken? You hardly look like the same person.

Millie said...

Danglies, you say. I'll have to remember that one.

The canes are VERY cool.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

My family get togethers also involve a lot of stories....stories of time spent in prison, stories of illegitimate births and new 'hooking ups', stories of convict love gone tragically wrong. You're very lucky to have the family you got pottymouth!

Julie said...

rdSo, ~j, when are you going to post these dead deer pictures? That sounds like quite the tale.

cw: There are lots of things about my mom you'd never guess about her. Perhaps that's where I get it from? And no, you're not old enough to be my mother. You're not even as old as my sister.

Geo: Awwww, shucks!

Lesleigh: Just prepping the newest in-law-to-be. No need for any surprises after the wedding. (ha ha)

Carrot: Yeah, I was going for the Bob Cratchett look.

Elizabeth-W: I looked for your tease about eggnog but couldn't find it. So no offense taken, even though I never saw it. Not everyone likes eggnog, as I eventually found out. It's always a shock at family gatherings to learn that a couple of my sisters-in-law (and the one that soon will be) don't care that much for eggnog. I think the stuff runs in my veins. And mixed about half and half with Sprite, with a little less Sprite than nog, eggnog is nectar fit for the gods. Or at least fit for my family.

Emily: That profile photo is fifteen years old. It was taken for a modeling course I took when I was twenty. (Do the math and you'll now know how old I really am....) Yeah, it just goes to show you the effects of aging on a perfectly decent face.

Millie: Yes, danglies. And I saw a pair of yellow ones, slightly off center, on the back of a Jeep today. I thought of you. At least they weren't stainless steel.

Elastic: "Stories of convict love gone wrong," eh? Actually, my family just might be able to compete to some degree with yours. With the two ex sisters-in-law and the events that took place before and after their divorces, my family could have been on the Jerry Springer show. Someday, when I finally get to meet you, I'll have to share those stories. I'm sure with your family story history you'll appreciate the humor. And thanks, I am very lucky to have the family that I do. They are awesome. Who else could appreciate my nostril wiggling talents as much as they?

~cari~ said...

What a funny but kinda cool present. Not many 80 year-olds can say they have a cane their dad made just for them. You'll be the coolest senior citizen ever!

Julie said...

Elizabeth-W: Never mind. I found your eggnog thing on Carrot's blog. And all is still forgiven. Especially since you directed the comment at compulsive. ;-)

~cari~: Thanks! Here's to being the fastest senior on a stick.

compulsive writer said...

Thank you Julie--not only do I feel younger than my age, I feel vindicated about my predeliction for spiking my eggnog. It's better than a Sprite float--and I drink those, too!

Julie said...

Compulsive: Mmmmmm....Sprite floats! I do mine with the vanilla ice cream that has orange sherbet ribboned into it. SO good! I haven't had one in forever! They're also yummy with the eggnog ice cream that comes out at Christmas time.

I knew we were sisters in some way or another.

b. said...

You are a great story teller, lucky for me and your other fans.
The canes, priceless.
Nostril wiggling? Now I realize that it is a MUST not necessarily a desire to pluck your nose hairs!;-)

Julie said...

b.: My brother used to make me and our youngest brother laugh at the dinner table by wiggling his nostrils. I had to learn the skill in order to survive dinner. It takes lots of practice and the ability to concentrate, and it's something you absolutely cannot do when laughing. It's also a great talent for those late-night chat sessions when everyone is slap happy and will laugh at anything.

Lessel Peeper said...

Wow, years of stories in one post. Guess you're done for a while? Who am I kidding, there's enough stories about the stupid things we did as kids (and adults) to keep that thread alive for years.

I'm even impressed that you used some discretion on content--save the juicy bits for later to increase readership. :-)

Keep up the nostril wiggling!